Christian Fong
Christian Fong
As a Republican candidate for Iowa governor, Cedar Rapids businessman Christian Fong said he wants to restore the Iowa dream.

Fong, the son of a Chinese immigrant who traveled to America and western Iowa to escape religious persecution in Communist China, said he learned firsthand how powerful that dream can be.

"My father got out in 1963. He came over because of what America stood for: freedom, opportunity, personal responsibility and commitment to take care of your neighbor no matter what they look like," said Fong.

"My father embraced the American dream. He was the classic immigrant who left everything behind to be an American ... and America embraced him."

Fong called the saga of his father, a professor, "the most Iowan of stories ... a story about how hard work and education allowed him to make a life for himself and his family. Although I grew up in a family with limited means, we were surrounded by a community that provided the support all Iowa small towns do. That is the Iowa way."

A dream threatened

Fong lamented that Iowa's current administration is threatening the Iowa dream for future generations.

"Our core values in Iowa are neighbors taking care of neighbors, respecting and honoring each other ... a commitment to hard work and education, to provide a better life for our kids than we had ourselves," said Fong.

"Now in Iowa that dream is slipping away due to out-of-control spending that is swamping our families with debt and taxes ... The Iowa dream is being overwhelmed by a state government which no longer reflects the values of its citizens," he said.

"I'm running for governor to see the restoration of the Iowa dream. The restoration of a government that works for citizens. Communities that are united in caring for each other," he said.

Defining marriage

On the issue of gay marriage, Fong said he feels Iowans should have the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment.

"The Legislature says one thing and the Supreme Court says the opposite. The law is clear. There is one arbiter when you have a disagreement and it's not the governor, it's the people of Iowa," said Fong.

The budget

If elected, Fong said he would balance the budget, slashing it by 5 percent the first year.

"It's not enough to slow the growth of government, which has grown by 20 percent in the first three years of Governor Culver's administration," said Fong.

Fong added bigger government doesn't help the people of Iowa.

"Are we a better state (since Culver took office)? Do Iowans believe in our state, or are we off course? I think we're off course," said Fong.

Fong said 10 years ago, a family earning $50,000 a year had money in the bank, college savings accounts, and were spending no more money than they made.

"Today that same family spends $57,000 and puts $7,000 a year on their credit cards," said Fong.

Fong lamented Iowa's government no longer reflects the values of its citizens, who are having to make "difficult decisions" in a tough economy.

As far as the state's propensity for overspending, Fong said, "Whether we put it on the state Visa or Mastercard, we've borrowed $830 million from Wall Street."

Infrastructure

Fong said he believes Iowa needs to start investing in its infrastructure, but will need to "get our government spending in other areas under control."

"It's hard to pay for roads when you're so busy paying for boondoggles," said Fong.

Fong's credentials

Fong graduated valedictorian from Underwood High School, Underwood, at the age of 16, and received a degree in statistics with honors from Creighton University at the age of 19, later receiving his MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H.

An executive with Aegon Life Insurance Company, Cedar Rapids, Fong said he has had to balance budgets and "make hard decisions to make payroll through up times and down times."

He is currently the CEO of Corridor Recovery, a flood recovery agency which serves the Cedar Rapids area. He is also past chair and a member of the Generation Iowa Commission.

"As part of Corridor Recovery, I've managed volunteers. We rebuilt over 100 homes a week. While serving on the small business task force, I helped save over 1,200 jobs by keeping businesses open following last year's flood," said Fong.

"It's a job record that I will compare with Governor Culver's any day," said Fong.

Personal responsibility

Fong noted on a personal level, he believes Iowa is about Iowans taking care of Iowans.

"We should not only expect, but should demand that our government do the same thing," said Fong.

Following last year's flood, the Fongs took a flood-affected family into their home, housing them for eight months.

"When Iowa was hit by the second worst natural disaster in U.S. history, my wife and I committed to each other that we would not look back and say we could have done anything more," said Fong.

"I bring that same commitment to running for governor."

Rebuilding hope

While Fong said he realized he is not an experienced politician, he has spent 13 years in the private sector, having to make tough decisions.

"It's the experienced politicians who have guided us into billion-dollar deficits and created programs that can't be sustained," said Fong.

"In my experience as a community leader, rebuilding hope and the houses of my city, I'll stack up against the experienced politicians' tendency to deliberate and delay, and ultimately betray the trust of our communities ... I have the experience of solving real problems out in the communities and that's the sort of experience we need in Des Moines," he concluded.

About Fong

Fong is married to Decorah native and Luther grad ('93) Jenelle Thurmer, daughter of Dan and MaryAnn Thurmer. He referred to Decorah as his "adopted hometown."

The Fongs have three children: Luther, 7; Ty, 5; and Elsa 2.