Yesterday afternoon, Christian Fong was the guest on Steve Deace’s afternoon drive-time show on WHO Radio. Fong, an employee for Cedar Rapids based insurance giant AEGON, announced his candidacy for governor just one week ago.
Fong is unknown in many Republican circles; this is especially true outside of his home town of Cedar Rapids. His appearance yesterday on Deace in the Afternoon was his first live interview with a statewide audience. Sitting down to an interview with Steve Deace is not an easy task for any candidate, but Fong managed to get through the interview without any major confrontations with the outspoken radio talk show host.
However, as a listener trying to learn more about Mr. Fong, the interview left me with far more questions than answers. It’s not that Deace failed to ask questions of Fong, it was that Fong was very elusive with his answers when asked a direct question.
The first question that Deace asked was about his contribution to Act Blue, a very liberal political action committee that raises money for Democrats. Fong said that his contribution was actually to a Democrat candidate who was using Act Blue as their on-line fundraising apparatus. Fong obviously regrets his contributions to Democratic legislators. He explained that the contributions were given to friends with whom he served with on various commissions.
Fong said that the reason why he would no longer make contributions to legislators like Reps. Tyler Olson and Elesha Gayman is because some of their votes violated his core beliefs. However, Fong contributed to both Gayman and Olson after they voted to extend civil rights to gays and lesbians and after they voted for the anti-bullying bill, which classified homosexuals as a protected class of people. Both of those pieces of legislation helped paved the way for the Supreme Court’s ruling this spring that allowed gay marriage to occur in Iowa. Deace failed to ask Fong directly about marriage.
Fong’s answer to Deace regarding his political contributions is also interesting because Fong claimed that he had never voted for a pro-choice candidate in his life. It seems odd that a person who would claim to never have voted for a pro-choice candidate would make contributions to two of them. When asked if he voted for Jim Leach, Fong ducked the question and said that his political activity was centered on going door-to-door and hosting fundraisers for local candidates, but he failed to mention who he was campaigning for.
Deace also asked Fong about the flood recovery in Linn County. Fong admitted to supporting the local option sales tax that was passed in March. Fong said he still gets teary-eyed when he thinks back to everything his community has gone through. He said the local option sales tax would help get his neighbors back in their homes. He also said that a family who was victimized by last year’s floods lived with him for eight months. Fong also opted not to comment directly about the seven projects in Linn County that recently received $30 million in I-Jobs grants. However, he did speak out against the governor’s $830 million I-Jobs plan.
Fong’s evasiveness on various issues will do him no favors in his gubernatorial campaign. Since he has never served in elected office, Fong doesn’t have any voting record that voters can look to. That means interviews like the one he did with Steve Deace are even more important. While he has an impressive background and great family story, he has to be able to build trust with the voters on a number of issues.
The one piece of information that we were able to learn from his appearance on Steve Deace’s show is that Steve Grubbs’ Victory Enterprises in Davenport is involved in Fong’s campaign. VE was not involved in a gubernatorial campaign in 2006, but was involved in Steve Sukup’s 2002 campaign. VE is currently involved in Ron Corbett’s campaign for mayor of Cedar Rapids, and the organization that VE helps build for Corbett’s campaign could help Fong with his primary campaign in his home county.
VE is also involved in another mayoral campaign in Iowa this year – the one in Waukee. However, in this instance, VE is coordinating the campaign against current Waukee councilman Isaiah McGee. McGee, who serves with Fong on the Generation Iowa commission, is a current central committee member of the Republican Party of Iowa. His opponent (VE’s client) is a registered Democrat.
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