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GOP sweeps races for agriculture posts

by Chip Carter | November 10, 2010
Riding the same wave that flopped the U.S. House of Representatives from blue to red and narrowed the Democratic margin in the senate, Republican candidates for agriculture commissioner swept into office Nov. 2 in all seven states where the post was contested.

In Alabama, Republican John McMillan, a former executive of the Alabama Forestry Association, bested Democrat Glen Zorn by a margin of 859,601 (59.7 percent) to 580,446 (40.3 percent). Mr. McMillan pledged to create a rural economic development council, enhance training for food-safety testing, and work with farmers to improve irrigation methods.

In Florida, Republican Adam Putnam scored a resounding victory to replace retiring Commissioner Charles Bronson, with 2,873,662 votes (56 percent) to Democrat Scott Maddox's 1,953,390 (38 percent), Tea Party candidate Ira Chester’s 201,233 (4 percent) and Non-Partisan Association candidate Thad Hamilton’s 102,243 (2 percent). Only 36, Mr. Putnam already has more than 15 years of political experience under his belt, serving first as a member of the Florida House of Representatives from 1996 to 2000 and then as the youngest member of the U.S. Congress when he was elected to the House in 2000.

Congressman Putnam’s family farming history combined with his experience and youthful exuberance motivated Florida voters and united the state agriculture community, translating into a landslide victory of almost 1 million votes.

"The single most important consumer protection issue in terms of health and public safety is food safety," said Rep. Putnam, who will complete his term in the 111th Congress. He has also targeted new numeric-specific nutrient criteria in waterways being imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “It’s arbitrary, it’s capricious and it’s rooted in flawed science. I’m working with regulators and legislators to put the pause button on that until the science catches up.”

In Georgia, Republican Gary Black tallied 1,401,289 votes (55.9 percent) to top Democrat J.B. Powell’s 1,016,516 (40.5 percent) and Libertarian Kevin Cherry’s 90,009 (3.6 percent) in the race to replace outgoing Commissioner Tommy Irvin, a Democrat who is leaving the office after 41 years, which is the longest tenure of any currently serving elected official at the state level in the United States.

In Iowa, incumbent Republican Bill Northey won the post of state agriculture secretary with 671,022 votes (62.9 percent) to Democrat Francis Thicke’s 395,264 (37.1 percent)

In North Dakota, incumbent Republican Doug Goehring tallied 157,641 votes (68.1 percent) to top Democrat Merle Boucher, a member of the state House of Representatives since 1991, who received 73,999 votes (31.9 percent).

In South Carolina, incumbent Republican Hugh Weathers had no trouble holding on to his post with 773,596 votes (60.1 percent) to Democrat Tom Elliott’s 514,164 (39.9 percent).

In Texas, Republican incumbent Todd Staples had a similar margin of victory, tallying 2,948,992 votes (60.8 percent) to Democrat Hank Gilbert’s 1,734,615 (35.8 percent) and Libertarian Rick Donaldson’s 163,706 (3.4 percent).

Said Commissioner Staples, “Texans and Americans enjoy the safest, most affordable food supply in the world. But with the population of Texas expected to almost double from 25 million to 46 million people in 50 years, our agriculture industry must continually evolve and innovate to ensure it can efficiently meet a growing domestic demand and compete in the global marketplace. America has seen the dangers of being dependent on foreign oil; we must not become dependent on foreign food. I’m excited about assisting our farmers and ranchers in growing and safeguarding the food supply that will feed us today and into the future.”