Running for governor is no easy task. When Chris Rants sat down with TheIowaRepublican.com a few days ago, it was apparent that Rants has had better weeks. What had Rants a little down wasn’t the reaction he gets on the campaign trail, it was the media’s focus on how much money each candidate has been able to raise in 2009.
There is no doubt that Rants is disappointed in his fundraising numbers. As the former Speaker of the Iowa House, Rants has grown used to being able to meet with the state’s largest political donors and convince them to fund his efforts in the legislature. Since launching his gubernatorial campaign last summer, Rants has raised just $78,000 and has $6,400 cash on hand. Out of the four candidates for governor, Rants finds himself in last place in the fundraising race.
Rants admitted that, once former Governor Terry Branstad entered the race, his ability to raise funds ceased. He said a number of pledges to his campaign never came in, his phone calls were not returned, and raising funds became nearly impossible. When describing his fundraising situation, Rants told TheIowaRepublican.com, “If you are looking for loyalty, get a dog.” He contends that Branstad’s entrance into the race hurt him more than any other candidate in the race.
While Rants lacks the necessary funds to wage much of a traditional campaign, Rants gave no indication that he was about to get out of the race. When asked about how much money is in his campaign account, Rants knew the amount to the penny. “It’s enough to keep gas in the car,” Rants said.
Rants believes that if he gets out of the race, there will not be much of a primary. He said, “We are not going to lead in fundraising, but we will lead on issues and ideas.” Out of any other candidate in the Republican gubernatorial race, Rants has also been the most outspoken critic of Branstad. While he admits it hasn’t made him popular with Republican donors, he believes that Branstad needs a challenge.
Challenging Branstad is something Rants seems comfortable doing. He pointed out that the former governor has raised the gas tax, numerous fees, and the sales tax twice. In all, Rants contends that Branstad has raised taxes thirty times. He also said that general fund spending increased by 150% under Branstad’s watch. Rants understands why some people are uncomfortable with his criticism of Branstad, but warns that he’s not the only one who knows Branstad’s record. Governor Culver and the Democrats know his record, too.
When asked about recent polls showing Branstad with a large lead over Culver, Rants said, “The problem with these head-to-head polls between Branstad and Culver is that, of course you would choose Branstad over Culver. A trained monkey could beat Chet Culver.”
While Rants admitted to TheIowaRepublican.com that he was having a tough week, he says that he gets all kinds of encouragement on the campaign trail. He said that people often tell him to hang in there, and also believes that most Iowans don’t consider the primary to be over.
Just as Rants was telling TheIowaRepublican.com that people keep encouraging him to run, a man approached the table we were sitting at. He asked Rants how the campaign was going, and the two discussed the early retirement scheme that passed in the State Senate just last night. The exchange clearly lifted his spirits, and when I asked if he knew the man, Rants admitted he didn’t have a clue.
It is those moments, and his passion about issues like property tax reform, that seem to be fueling Rants’ campaign for governor. He speculates what he could do if he had a third of what Branstad has raised, but just because he lacks the resources doesn’t mean he has to stop trying to focus the Republican primary on the issues.
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