Businessman Christian Fong announced Tuesday that he has suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination for governor because the financial hurdles were too large to overcome.
"That is 100 percent of the decision," Fong said. "We are entering the phase of the campaign where expenses jump from six figures to seven figures in a hurry and although I could keep a campaign going, it would be a mediocre, second-rate campaign and I'm not willing to do that."
At 32, the Dartmouth College graduate and executive with AEGON USA, an insurance company in Cedar Rapids, was making his first bid for elected office and was competing against at least five more experienced candidates.
Fong said that while his campaign is over, he will remain involved in the governor's race to ensure a lively discussion about issues including reforming the state tax code and reversing population and job losses.
"Over the coming months, I intend to be actively involved in the process even it it's not as a formal candidate for governor," he said.
Fong described himself as a social and fiscal conservative. He called for phasing out the state's income tax and sided with social conservatives on issues such as abortion and gay marriage. He had said the economy would have been his primary focus as governor.
While Fong, whose father is a Chinese immigrant and whose mother grew up on a Nebraska farm, drew compliments from some political strategists, others were puzzled by his decision to shoot for the governor's office in his first try for public office.
Fong he has not made any decisions about his political future but left the door open for future bids for the governor's office.
"This is round one and I don't consider this a political knockout," Fong said. "It's not a farewell day, it's until next time."
He also said that while he had been in contact with some of the other candidates, the topic of joining the Republican ticket as a candidate for lieutenant governor had not been discussed.
"There have been no backroom deals and no conversations about it," he said. "If somebody approached me I would respectfully listen and consider it."
He did not endorse a specific candidate but said: "I will get behind whatever Republican emerges and I will endorse the Republican message."
His departure leaves at least five Republicans who have either announced their campaigns for the GOP nomination or are considering joining the race. They include former Gov. Terry Branstad; Sioux City businessman Bob Vander Plaats; state Reps. Christopher Rants of Sioux City and Rod Roberts of Carroll; and state Sen. Jerry Behn of Boone.
Democratic incumbent Chet Culver has not formally announced his intention to seek another term but has given every indication that he will. He never stopped raising money even in the months after he won election in 2006 and now has staffers running fundraising and field operations.