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December 5th, 2009

Narcisse: An Open Letter To Christopher Rants

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Written by: The Iowa Republican
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jon nChris:

I’m not writing you as a competitor or as a member of the political class. I’m writing you as a father. I’m writing you as an Iowan.

I hate politics.

Politics has cost me a great deal – my marraige, my financial standing, it opened me up to attacks designed to question my character and destroy my credibility. As important, politics nearly cost me my virtue and my sanity. Below I’m attaching the link to the Cityviw piece that ran in August that shares just how deep I fell into the abyss.

I hate politics.

But politics is how we wage war in this society. It is how we savagely resolve our differences so we can civilly co-exist.

I know there is a really good chance someone not named Jon Narcisse will be the next governor of Iowa. So I have a stake in who that person might be. Especially as a father and an Iowan.

We know Governor Culver has failed as our state’s leader.

Chet is a great guy. Chet is a good and decent human being. I first met him on the basketball court nearly two decades ago. He supported our efforts when I was the head of the State of Black Iowa Initiative. I did more than endorse his candidacy in my newspapers I campaigned vigorously for him.

But I learned a long time ago running a family business that sometimes you have to fire people you love.

Governor Culver deserves to be fired.

Former Governor Terry Branstad will always be my governor. I served on his inauguration committee. He made me a state commissioner and on his watch I became the youngest chair of a state commission in Iowa. He always came on my radio show and to events I invited him to.

But it is sad and tragic that candidate Branstad has denounced Governor Branstad. At the policy event at the Botanical Center yesterday a longtime Branstad supporter and ally explained it to me in simple terms “he’s running to the right in the primary because of Vander Plaats but he’ll be back to the center in the general election.”

I thought Governor Branstad was better than that.

I have not always agreed with his decisions but I trusted his sincerity. I trusted that sometimes a leader makes tough, unpopular and needed decisions. But late October, sitting in his office, I learned face-to-face that was not the case.

I cannot put into words my disappointment in my Governor. I can both respect and disagree with a man of conviction at the same time. What I can not stomach are the politics of cynicism in the face of the urgency of the moment. Former Governor Branstad is the one man in Iowa who could have stood up and said “times are tough, tough decisions need to be made, unpopular ones and I’ll make them.”

Had he said that it would have been over. But he didn’t do that. He’s pandered. He’s put politics above principle and conviction. It is an inexplicable betrayal of the state that followed him for nearly two decades.

Chris, our state is in trouble.

We are facing a billion dollar budget shortfall. Governance at every level has been destabilized by our current administration. We are facing a massive and immenent property tax hike. Iowa has become a no growth state. Meth has returned with a bad mood. Our major school districts are in near total failure and the dropout crisis is costing Iowa billions.

Iowa is fast transforming into a welfare state.

The urgency of the moment defies “politics as usual.” When I look at the landscape there is only one Republican running for governor I trust with the future of my children – Chris Rants.

Now we have not always seen eye to eye and that isn’t going to change. There are many decisions you made that still vex me. Earlier this decade when we pulled our bi-partisan alliance together led by Jack Hatch and Chuck Larson you were Speaker of the House. We made some pretty solid recommendations. For example one of them was to align DHS, Judicial, AEA and Community College districts. An idea you advanced in our debate Thursday night but one you would not allow to come to the floor of the House while you were in power.

So when I say you are the only Republican running I trust with the future of my children it is not stated lightly. Nor do I say it ignoring your tenure as the most powerful legislator in Iowa.

But we learn from our mistakes and I believe you have.

My first time around the block I acquired a lot of power. I failed miserably. Power doesn’t come with a manual. We learn as we go. I made mistakes and some of them I’m still answering for. But I’m much wiser now. Wise enough to know the moment is bigger than politics and partisanship.

Abraham Lincoln said “most men can handle adversity, if you want to know the character of a man give him power.”

I believe you could have accomplished more as Speaker. Much more. But that isn’t important. What is imporant is you have demonstrated you’ve grown as a man, a leader, since leaving that post. You have learned from your triumphs and failures and offer a hope of real leadership for Iowans.

Ironically, this growth, I think it is a huge part of why, I believe, your candidacy hasn’t gained traction.

Once we’ve played the game it is hard to go back. When we finally say “I’m going to do what’s right” we often find ourselves alone because our path to power wasn’t big enough to bring along those that would have stood with us. So when we finally say “I’m going to do what’s right” we stand alone.

Governor Branstad has the money and the legacy. He is viable. Bob Vander Plaats has money and a zealous army to drive his “Executive Order” based candidacy. He is viable.

You have the plan, the insights and the vision to lead this state better than any other Republican. But be honest, on December 5, 2009, do you really believe your candidacy is viable?

I don’t. Not yet. But this is why I believe you not only can run a viable candidacy but must run a viable candidacy.

Here is why I believe you are the only Republican I would trust with the future of my children:

1. Iowa needs a governor that actually understands state government. You and former Governor Branstad are the only candidates that do.

2. Iowa need a governor that has a plan. Only you and former Governor Branstad, again, do.

3. Iowa needs a governor that has a vision. While I differ with you on what that vision is, you alone, in the Republican field understand being governor allows the facilitation of a bold vision. While Governor Branstad has a plan and was very, very competent he managed Iowa. He didn’t lead it.

4. Iowa needs a governor that understands growing government irresponsibly and raising taxes irresponsibly isn’t the answer. Only you and Rod Roberts understand this. The two front runners have documented and demonstrated – embedded in their legacy and rhetoric – a sincere commitment to big government and bigger taxes, bigger debt and gaming the system.

5. Iowa needs a governor that has the experience to stand up to the opposition. Former governor Branstad again and again, this campaign season, has stated “the Democrats made me do it.” You know first hand he advocated raising a number of taxes, and he advocated growing government.

Yesteday David Fischer, the head of the Fischer Commission and a current advisor to the former Governor flat out said we need “revenue enhancement.” He made it plain that’s why the sales tax was raised under Branstad, not because the Democrats made him do it but because Branstad believed it was the right thing to do. He made it plain yesterday that “revenue enhancement” beginning with raising the sales tax is immenent.

If that’s the case the former Governor should be making the case not playing politics. Instead he’s flat out playing both sides against the middle. For example, at the October meeting he actually said “I am taking a 65% pay cut to accept this job. I want state employees to take a 25% pay cut.”

Now we know he is not going to campaign on that. He was pandering to a group of social and fiscal conservatives.

That’s not “proven, tested, ready leadership.” That’s doing the John McCain and Iowa’s crisis deserves a more serious treatment than that.

6. Iowa needs a governor with a high governance I.Q. You have that. Being smart isn’t enough. We elected a nuclear engineer once upon a time ago. He was really smart and really incompetent.

You, on the otherhand are not only smart enough to articulate solutions but you are smart enough to learn from the insights of others. No one else in the field has demonstrated the ability to either learn from their mistakes or to learn from others except for you. Former Governor Branstad has a high governance I.Q. but has demonstrated he lacks the moral compass that must go along with it.

7. Iowa needs a governor with the courage to lead. Only you and Rod Roberts, in the G.O.P. field, have truly demonstrated that courage. You more than he.

So why am I writing you?

Is this an endorsement?

Absolutely not.

No, this is the father of Integrity and Perseverance calling upon you to rise to the moment.

Abraham Lincoln said “The dogma of the quiet past is inadequate to the stormy present and unpredictable future. The occasion is piled with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.”

Chris, as the only viable Republican option for Iowa, in a state where our current Governor should be on Matt Strawn’s payroll and the R.P.I. employee of the year, you are the only serious candidate with a vision and plan.

You owe it to my children and yours to run a legitimate campaign, a winning campaign.

You have to change the way you’re doing things because you aren’t getting the results necessary to make you a real contender. That’s why the race has become a two person contest.

You must change that!

As I advance a statewide agenda I have learned I must do a lot of things different. I have to be nice, for example. In the toxic, cut throat world of Polk County politics being nice is a fatal liability. My first real meeting as co-chair of the Polk County Democratic party wasn’t at 19th and Carpenter where the Central Committee met, it was at the Hotel Savory. Two items were on the agenda. The first was to pick the successor to Mayor Pete Crivaro. The second was to warn Archie Brooks to back off Jack Bishop or his affair with Ramona Cunningham, and worse, would come out.

As Morpheus from the Matrix might have said “Welcome to the real world, Jonathan.”

But as I get outside of Polk County I am reminded that Iowans are a very good and decent people. That even the political class is interested in solutions and that I can’t be the blunt force weapon I was on the School Board. That’s been a hard but needed lesson.

I don’t know if you can win the G.O.P. nomination. But you owe it to our children to do better than you’re doing now. You have ideas, a plan, a vision. Advance those. When people go to your website the first thing they should see is why they should vote for you. It shouldn’t be an attack on Branstad or Bob.

They should see the depth and breadth of your plan, your ideas, your vision. You need to tell them why they should vote Chris Rants for Governor!

At the G.O.P. event on November 7th everybody I talked to respected your intellect and ideas. What they questioned was your tenure as the most powerful legislator in Iowa. So you need to answer those concerns. When I go to your website I should see what you accomplished as Speaker of the House. I should see what you accomplished, like leading tax reduction – that made you the fresh face elevated to G.O.P. leader.

You also need to do a serious analysis of the mistakes you made and what you have learned from those mistakes. If you don’t do that no matter what you say people will think of you as Speaker Rants the guy who isn’t running. They won’t recognize the man who’s running and that was the exact sentiment I heard on November 7th from a key party leader.

You need to tell Iowans what you would do the same and what you would do different. Help Iowans understand what I’ve come to understand. You are the only legitimate gubernatorial candidate on the Republican side. There is no other. There are better funded candidates. There are better organized candidates. I think Rod would make a very good governor over time but can we afford his learning curve?

To me he is the Lt. Governor but not the head man. Not yet.

You don’t have to be the attack dog in this contest Chris. The lack of substance coming out of former Governor Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats leaves them with only one option – to attack each other visciously. How petty is it that Bob, while Iowan’s face a billion dollar deficit and immenent tax hikes says he should be Governor because he didn’t endorse former Nebraska Governor Nelson a decade ago? How unacceptable is it that former Governor Branstad defends his making Iowa a gambling state because he got booed at a football game?

Shame on them.

But you don’t have to pull out IRS records. You don’t have to do Terry watch. Use your vastly superior ideas to crush the opposition. Use what you accomplished while leader and before to crush your opposition.

Your slow start as a candidate should not trump the reality of your record and deed to others your legacy.

For example Bob Vander Plaats owns the marraige issue. He has grasped the mantle. Yet where was he when you passed a constitutional amendment protecting marraige but needed allies to get it through the Senate? Former Gov. Branstad was in power for 16 years. Did he pass a marraige amendment? He is working both sides of the aisle on this one. He’s deployed Joy Corning to work the pro-gay marraige crowd while he rushes to get to the right of Bob on the issue. But did he use his clout to get the issue through the Senate?

Only you got a Constitutional Amendment on Marraige passed. So how is it that the others own this issue and those, to whom this is the only issue that matters, dismiss you?

And that’s where you make your fight. Strive with them in the arena of ideas. Collapse them under a withering attack of vision and relevance. You have too much to offer to be seen as petty, like when you got into the fight with Bob over whether he was the Turnaround CEO. What did you really gain out of that versus what you could have gained by calling him out for not having developed a plan to govern Iowa after a decade of running for the job?

Your mouse trap can’t get to market. It can’t even get out of the middle of the woods. And in the Madison Avenue era that’s not good enough. And it’s not just this issue. You’ve failed to capture the high ground on multiple issues you should own.

Branstad has a legacy. Ironically he’s both running from it and on it as the same time. Bob has a legacy – losing. Yet his opening comments about you are that you’ve been rejected now in multiple election cycles by Iowans. So you need to remind people of your legacy. They remember the bad parts of it. I know I do.

Remind them of the good parts, also.

I can speak to the importance of this from personal experience. I got a great deal accomplished on the Des Moines School Board – huge reforms. And I kept every promise. But what people remember are the sound bites and the cartoons, in my case, literally the two from Duffy.

I realized if I am to get my message across I have to remind people that I got results.

You must do the same. Make your case for being the Republican nominee and Iowa’s next governor.

2010 is a battle for the very soul of our state.

I boxed. But this isn’t a boxing match governed by marquis of queensbury rules, it’s the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) where the ref jumps in is to end the fight. There are no ten counts, no standing eight counts.

Maybe that’s not fair. Maybe that’s not right. But you entered this race. So be in it to win it.

Finally, if my words are off base dismiss them. If they have merit…

Jonathan R. Narcisse

Father, Iowan


About the Author

The Iowa Republican





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