UPDATED: Fong suspends campaign

UPDATE:  Republican gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong exited the race this morning.  Read the Radio Iowa story here.  Fong’s last blog post on his campaign website was interesting, in the context of today’s news, as he reflects on the people he spent a lot of time with over the past five months. 

So, here’s Fong’s last campaign blog post, dated November 30, 2009 and copied below:

Just past Thanksgiving, and I am 56 counties into my tour of Iowa.

County GOP fundraisers are a great way to do well by doing good.  Some competitors of mine skip these events.  On one hand, it’s hard to blame them.  It is much easier to sit down over a steak lunch in Des Moines and ask for a $5000 donation than to spend six hours on the road, speak 10 minutes, and roll quietly into the driveway past midnight.  But that’s just not the way to meet the activists of the party, understand what Iowans are concerned about, sense the subtle regional differences and (for what it is worth), learn to really nail the laugh lines in a stump speech.  The audiences are generally friendly, even the Democrat operative who consistently follows us around to videotape, hoping one of the candidates will make an embarrassing, sleep-deprived mistake.  The venues are nearly always cramped, with organizers scrambling to find extra chairs, thus reminding me that politics is, in a way, Iowa’s state sport.  The food?  Not surprisingly, it is consistently pork.

Since June, I have been joined by Rod Roberts, Bob Vander Plaats and Chris Rants at nearly every event.  We sometimes refer to ourselves as The Faithful Four.  We know each other’s stump speeches, applause lines, hand motions and respective willingness to stretch time limits.  Each has a great sense of humor – Rod telegraphs his punch lines with suddenly smiling eyes, Bob has a Dutch joke for nearly every topic and Chris’ keen sense of the ironic can be hilarious with his dry deliver.  We ask after each other’s families, and I suspect I am not the only one that keeps them in my prayers.  So as the fall speaking circuit ends, I thank those that put the work into these county fundraiser events and those that came to listen to the GOP candidates.  I’ll look forward to another pork chop next time!

Fong called into the Radio Iowa newsroom at about 11 o’clock this morning and I asked Fong if his decision to exit the race (and forego some pork chop dinner) was popular with the “non-voting age members of (his) household.” Fong has three young children.  He laughed.

“I’m looking forward to getting reacquainted with my family,” Fong said. “My wife has been tremendously supportive and I’m thankful to her own vision of service and leadership that parallels mine, but my five-year-old said to me the day before Thanksgiving — when I had seen him for the second evenings in a row — ‘Two days in a row, dad.  Can we make it three?’ and I think he’s looking forward to seeing me more often.”

I followed up with this question:  When did you make the decision to exit the race?  Over the Thanksgiving holiday?

“It was over Thanksgiving,” Fong said.  “It’s a time to stop and reflect and almost every family does that.  What we were reflecting about was just the practical realities of financially, can you keep a campaign going and is it fair to do so to the supporters, to the staff when it was becoming a week-by-week venture?”

The news release announcing Fong’s exit from the campaign is below:

(Cedar Rapids, IA)  Christian Fong, Republican gubernatorial candidate announced that effective today he will suspend his campaign for Governor. 

“Today, I announce the suspension of my campaign.  From this time forward, we will not be actively campaigning for the Republican nomination for Governor.   While today marks a change of direction for our campaign and for myself personally, today is not an end to my passion to see the Iowa Dream restored,” said Fong.

“Over the coming months, I intend to be actively involved in the process even if it’s not as a formal candidate for Governor.   Iowa is faced with historic challenges and opportunities.  The decision voters make in 2010 will greatly shape the future of our state.   I personally want to ensure we continue to have a lively discussion about reforming our income tax code, reversing population and job losses in Iowa and addressing the “Brain Drain.”   Electing a Republican nominee who is committed to addressing these issues with substantive plans will lead to success, both next November against Governor Culver, and through the next four years.” 

“To my supporters and those that have generously supported my campaign financially, I give my sincere thanks.  Your support and passion for our state deepened my conviction that this campaign reflected not only our core Iowa values, but our bright future as well.   Our vision was clear, but the financial hurdles too great.  Yet it is the responsibility of each generation to build on the blessings of liberty in Iowa, and so I will continue to stand with you for the future of our great state,” concluded Fong.

Christian Fong graduated from Underwood High School in Southwest Iowa at the age of 16 and then attended Creighton University, graduating at age 19.  After college, he and his wife, Jenelle, located in Cedar Rapids and Christian started work at AEGON.   Fong put his career on hold to attend Dartmouth, earning his MBA.  He and his family returned to Cedar Rapids, where they reside today and attend River of Life Ministries church.   When the floods of 2008 hit Cedar Rapids, Fong founded and still serves today as the CEO of Corridor Recovery, a non-profit flood relief organization that coordinated recovery efforts.   The Fongs have three children. 

UPDATE:  by 1 p.m. this afternoon, three of the five remaining GOP candidates for governor had issued statements.  Read them below, in the order they were issued.

SIOUX CITY – Republican candidate for governor Bob Vander Plaats issued the following statement this morning in response to Cedar Rapids businessman Christian Fong’s decision to suspend his candidacy for the 2010 GOP gubernatorial nomination:
 “I’ve grown to appreciate Christian’s grace, wit and intelligence during the months we were on the campaign trail together. He represents everything that’s good about the state. He’s a tremendous talent who believes in being part of the solution – and that makes him a great role model for young Iowans.  I hope they will follow his example as someone who has worked hard to achieve his dreams and is very committed to his faith, his family, his community and his state.
 “Christian has said he will continue to speak out about the priorities that moved him to enter the race.  Even if that was not the case, one thing is certain – Iowans can rest assured that his candidacy this year was only a beginning. It’s certainly not the end of Christian Fong as a voice of leadership for our state’s future.”
(URBANDALE) – Gov. Terry Branstad today released the following statement upon learning of Christian Fong’s suspension of his campaign for governor.

“I want to thank Christian for bringing his youth, energy and unique perspective to the Iowa governor’s race. Christian Fong epitomizes the Iowa dream, and I look forward to working with him on the critical need for Republicans to be a relevant voice for young people. We must provide a thriving business climate in Iowa that entices young professionals to remain in Iowa and raise their families here. Christian Fong is an exciting, energetic Republican and we’re fortunate to have him in our party.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Rants of Sioux City issued the following statement:

“I want to commend Christian Fong for running a campaign that brought real ideas and solutions to the debate.  Christian traveled the state extensively, and that is no easy task for someone with a young family, so I want to extend a thank you to his wife and children for their sacrifice and sharing of his time.  I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of Christian, and I look forward to his continued involvement in Iowa Republican politics.”

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.