By Seymour Klierly
With the 2014-midterm elections around the corner in November, agriculture groups are busy making sure farmers, ranchers and agribusiness leaders know who would support the industry. The national landscape has shifted to several Midwestern states, including Kansas and Iowa, that could decide control of the upper chamber of the Congress.
Republicans are trying to control both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate, which would make an interesting final two years of President Barack Obama’s presidency. Since elected to the White House, the president has always a favorable or split Congress. In order to win back the Senate, the GOP would need to pick up at least six seats across the country and defend their current members.
Kansas has moved into the national spotlight after the Democratic Party removed their own nominee in order to boost a self-proclaimed independent candidate against Sen. Pat Roberts, R-KS. Even though Greg Orman started to run against Roberts in 2008 as a Democrat, few Kansans know much about his background.
Roberts has the support of the Kansas Farm Bureau and the Kansas Livestock Association. If he wins in November and Republicans have a majority in the Senate, Roberts will likely be the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. He would be the first member to ever hold the post in both the House and Senate, bringing years of experience to the position.
In Iowa, the retirement of Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA, has opened a pure toss up race between both parties. Congressman Bruce Braley, D-IA, was expected to be the front runner for the seat, but his comments disparaging Sen. Chuck Grassley for being only a farmer and not a lawyer has caused major heartburn in the Hawkeye state. Both Harkin and Grassley currently serve on the agriculture committee, and the state’s populist voters tend to stay close to its agriculture roots.
Republican challenger Joni Ernst has made the race competitive by playing up her farm roots. She won the contested primary by promising to cut pork spending, like she worked to castrate hogs. The Iowa Farm Bureau and other agriculture organizations, which would love to have another farmer representing them in Washington, D.C, support Ernst.
Iowa and Kansas voters have hot races on their hands. Their decisions with the ballot box on Election Day will have far reaching national ramifications for the political parties. However, both states are facing choices between verifiable agriculture supporters and other candidates who may not even want to serve on the agriculture committee. While the races may have national impacts, in the end, all politics are still local.
Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.