A Democrat who served a term on the Des Moines school board says “someone” should step forward to challenge Governor Chet Culver’s reelection in 2010.
On Monday, Jonathan Narcisse told The Des Moines Register that Culver has been a “reckless and irresponsible” governor and “any Democrat who loves the state must call on someone to run against Culver.” On Tuesday, Narcisse held a news conference with Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Rants to announce he and Rants will appear at six, 90-minute-long debates around the state in December. Narcisse laughed when asked if the tour was a prelude to his own run for the governorship.
“You know, I said to (Des Moines Register reporter) Jason Clayworth when he asked me that question, ‘I always laugh when I’m asked that question.’ I’ve also heard other rumors: ‘I’m running for the senate — running against (State Senators) Jack Hatch or Matt McCoy…I’m going to primary Grassley,'” Narcisse said. “You know, that’s not what this is about. This is about advancing solutions.”
Rants, who is running for governor, and Narcisse plan to debate issues like education reform and the two discussed their debate tour at a news conference Tuesday morning. But Narcisse was unwilling to discuss his own political future with the three radio reporters in the room.
“You know, if I were running for governor I wouldn’t announce it here. If I don’t run for governor, I won’t confirm that here. I’ll let you all speculate,” Narcisse said. “What I’m going to focus on are the real critical issues facing iowans like 28 of our 29 urban…high schools in our ‘urban eight’ officially failing. I’m going to focus on the fact that poverty — real poverty — is up in this state.”
Narcisse wrote a three-page “open letter” to Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats on Wednesday. Read it below:
Mr. Bob Vander Plaats:
I saw your attack on former Governor Branstad in yesterday’s Des Moines Register and was extremely disappointed. Is this going to be the essence of your campaign?
When we met November 9th you stated you wanted to run a campaign of substance and ideas. Now it appears the only thing you are really concerned about is getting elected. And while an examination of former Governor Branstad’s record is essential it has become apparent offering real solutions to Iowa’s crisis is no longer a priority of yours.
Following your disturbing presentation at the September 12th IFPC dinner I sent you an email challenging you to a debate. For a decade you’ve been running for governor yet you failed to offer any plan to fix our state or even one detailing how you would implement your agenda.
In response to my challenge you asked if we could meet and we did, September 15th in Brooklyn, Iowa for two hours. At that meeting you confirmed you had no plan to fix state government. I asked point blank “do you have a plan to fix state government.”
After avoiding the question twice you simply stated “no” the third time I asked.
This is not an insignificant admission Mr. Vander Plaats since prior to our meeting you were attacking Governor Culver and stating you would fix and reduce state government.
Since that date we have met again and then again. We even discussed meeting several more times collaborating on the creation of real solutions for Iowans. After seeing your website, however, and reading yesterday’s article I have come to accept the hard truth.
There is now public speculation I plan to primary Governor Culver. What the media and many members of the political class do not grasp is that I am a lifelong Iowan, a father, and a concerned citizen.
I love this state. I would sit down with you, Gov. Culver, former Gov. Branstad or any other Iowan committed to addressing the very serious issues facing this state. The pain of Iowans is real and that pain calls for answers and leadership.
Unfortunately, it has become obvious, you have no real interest in providing those answers or that leadership.
Mr. Vander Plaats, that’s not good enough.
The time has come for you to stop offering platitudes and promises; pandering is not leadership.
You say you are the “Turnaround” CEO.
Former House Speaker Chris Rants says you are not.
As for me, I do not question your assertion you “turned around” various fledgling organizations. But it is one thing to turnaround an organization that wants that type of “consultation” were friendlies occupy the seats of power. It is another thing to enter hostile territory and engage fierce opposition.
Where have you demonstrated the public courage to stand and fight?
When corruption in education was exposed years ago, despite your promise to stand and fight, you turned around. When the movement you propose now to champion sought a G.O.P. leader from amongst its own you agreed to lead until Chuck Larson stepped to you, then, you turned around. Passionate Iowans invested time, talents and money into your 2002 and 2006 campaign. They sacrificed in order to make you their leader and our state’s next governor. But when Jim Nussle stepped to you, you turned around.
So unlike Speaker Rants, I do not question you are a turn around CEO. What worries me is when Mike Gronstal steps to you you will do what you have done again, and again, and again – turn around!
Yesterday I looked at your website and found two consistent themes.
The first is pandering to issues that have little to do with the constitutional duties of a Governor. For example you talk about the need for a federal fair tax while you completely fail to offer a vision of tax reform in Iowa. If that is your plan, to neglect Iowa’s needs and debate federal matters, you should run against United States Senator Charles Grassley or United States Representative Steve King.
The second is affirmation that, with the exception of the executive order, your policies are no different than those of former Governor Terry Branstad’s sans the experience. In many respects your priorities are no different than Governor Culver’s.
Your site affirms your commitment to major expanded government. Your site affirms your commitment to a failed education bureaucracy. Your site affirms your commitment to government intrusion into the private business sector in multiple and unacceptable ways.
Most tragically your site affirms, amidst your meaningless rhetoric, you too will betray the God fearing, patriotic, family loving supporters that trust you.
You may be a good father, and a good husband, and a man of faith and personal charisma but your “For and Against” statements absolutely affirm you are not the fiscal conservative you market yourself to be any more than former Governor Branstad is.
You are a big “G” government Republican in the best of the hypocritical tradition.
Your now posted public positons are reckless and irresponsible.
Now perhaps you aren’t committed to their implementation but merely offer them as part of your leadership balkinization strategy to win the election. But if that’s not the case your ideas can only be implemented through Republican Commandment 12 – cut taxes but spend our children into debt or Republican Commandment 13 – raise taxes and lie about it.
You, sir, have put honorable people at credibility risk. You are charismatic. I give you that. But your failure to develop a plan after 10 years made your advocates vulnerable. And now your blatant embrace of Culver like public extravagance and excess threatens the very credibility of those that say you are the “conservative champion.”
Granted, you are absolutely for traditional marraige. But so are the voters of California, Maine and 100% of the states allowed to vote on the issue. Yours is not a courageous stand. Rather your position is as American as a Big Mac, fries, a cold supersized soda and two apple pies for a dollar.
It is obvious you just want to be the boss and that your agenda isn’t really different than that of the previous Governors including the one you attacked yesterday.
As Iowa’s expert on the Branstad years I can say with confidence you are no different than Terrry Branstad prior to his election. And now, as he returns, there are no substantive differences offered between what would be his fifth term and your first term with the exception of your differences on issuing an executive order on marriage.
If I were the former Governor I wouldn’t say “Bob, remember Reagan’s 11th Commandment.” I would say “Bob, the only real difference between us is I know what I’m doing.”
Mr. Vander Plaats, have the courage to do what Speaker Rants is doing – enter the realm of solutioneering. I am sending you the questions we are debating. You don’t have to fear being sandbagged if you debate me.
So are you willing to advance real solutions and defend them instead of offering slogans, your personal story and attacks on your opponents?
Or, will you live up to your title and do what you’ve always done when challenged – turn around?
Jonathan R. Narcisse
An Iowa Worth Fighting For
P.S. The offer to join Team Vander Plaats during the campaign and to join your executive team and administration after the election should you win is declined.