Many new representatives have agricultural backgrounds

WASHINGTON -- Twenty-two new House members are likely to take an interest in agriculture or rural issues because they come from rural districts or have farm backgrounds, according to biographies of the new members written by the staff of the Alma...

WASHINGTON -- Twenty-two new House members are likely to take an interest in agriculture or rural issues because they come from rural districts or have farm backgrounds, according to biographies of the new members written by the staff of the Almanac of American Politics.

The Almanac of American Politics is the definitive guide to Congress. It is owned and published by National Journal, a weekly magazine on politics and government policy published in Washington. When the new Congress comes to Washington in January, at least 50 members of the House of Representatives will be new, more than 10 percent of the body. Some races still have not been decided. Replacing a member does not guarantee a seat on the House Agriculture Committee in the next Congress. The ratio between Democrats and Republicans on the committee in the next Congress has not been decided.


Eight of the new members will replace members of the House Agriculture Committee. Terry Everett of Alabama, the second-highest-ranking Republican on the committee, retired, while seven others were defeated. Members from rural districts often seek seats on the House Agriculture Committee to get the rural vote, but that did not save seven of them in this election.

One of the most extraordinary results in the House elections was in Everett's district. Republicans have dominated the district since 1965, but a Democrat, Bobby Bright, defeated Republican state Rep. Jay Love in the race to replace Everett. Bright is a fourth-generation Alabaman who spent his early years on a farm on which his father was a sharecropper. According to his biography, he often missed the first week of school to help with the cotton harvest. Bright's family moved off the farm when he was 11 and as a youth he worked in his brother's sheet metal business. He is a lawyer who has served as mayor of Montgomery, Ala.



Four Democrats defeated Republican members of the House Agriculture Committee.

Betsy Markey, a Colorado Democrat, defeated Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., in a partially rural district. Musgrave was one of the Republican House Agriculture Committee members who had split with President Bush to vote for the farm bill.

Erica Massa, a onetime GOP aide on the House Armed Services Committee who switched parties and became a Democrat, defeated Rep. Randy Kuhl, an upstate New York Republican who had served on the House Agriculture Committee. Massa describes himself as a "rural FDR Democrat," a reference to President Franklin Roosevelt's estate along the Hudson River and Roosevelt's strong farm policy under the New Deal.

Larry Kissell, a Democratic textile worker and teacher, defeated Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C., who got into trouble over his support of free trade agreements, particularly the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Kissell called Hayes' vote for CAFTA a "betrayal."

Mark Schauer, a Michigan Democrat who had worked as a community organizer and city commissioner in Battle Creek, defeated Rep. Tim Walberg, a Republican who served on the agriculture committee.

Two members have taken strong positions on immigration, but they are on the opposite side of farm leaders who say immigration reform should allow farm workers who have entered the country illegally to gain legal status. One is Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican, who will succeed Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., the leader of the get-tough on immigrants movement. Another is Jason Chaffetz, an Idaho Republican, who defeated Rep. Chris Cannon in a primary after Cannon supported the immigration bill that would have led to a path for citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Three Republicans defeated Democrats.


Tom Rooney, a Florida Republican, defeated Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-Fla., who admitted to multiple affairs with women since he took office in 2006. Rooney had replaced Republican Rep. Mark Foley, who had gotten caught up in a gay sex scandal involving congressional pages. The district includes the glamorous city of Palm Beach, but also key cane sugar-growing areas.

Pete Olson, a former aide to Republican Sens. Phil Gramm and John Cornyn, won the Texas seat that Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Texas, won after House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was forced to resign in 2006. The district is so Republican it was not surprising that Lampson did not survive even though he had sat on the agriculture committee.

Lynn Jenkins, a Republican certified public accountant and elected state official, defeated Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Kan. Boyda was prominent in the farm bill debate, but Jenkins focused on Boyda's votes to phase out some of President Bush's tax cuts.

Ag business

Two new members also have ties to the flower and landscaping businesses. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., has had a business called that connected flower vendors with flower buyers. Kathy Dahlkepmer, a Pennsylvania Demcorat who defeated Republican Rep. Phil English, owns a family landscaping business with her husband. She also is a dietitian by training.

Walt Minnick, an Idaho Democrat who defeated GOP Rep. Bill Sali, was born on a wheat farm near Walla Walla, Wash. Minnick was a Republican and worked in the Nixon White House on drug policy before returning to Idaho and working in the forestry industry and starting a chain of garden stores. Minnick left the Republican Party after he decided it had become too conservative under House Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Chellie Pingree, a Maine Democrat, won the seat of Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine, who gave up his seat to run unsuccessfully for the Senate. Pingree grew up in Minnesota, the granddaughter of Scandinavian immigrant dairy farmers, and settled in the 1970s in Maine with her then-husband.

Blaine Luetkemeyer, a Republican banker and insurance agent in Missouri, will succeed Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo., who ran for governor, but failed. Luetkemeyer's district has conservative-leaning rural counties, and he won the endorsement of the Missouri Farm Bureau.


John Adler, a Democratic lawyer in New Jersey, won the seat of retiring Republican Rep. Jim Saxton. Adler's district includes the largely undeveloped Pine Barrens, and he won the support of the Sierra Club and other environmental groups.

Ben Ray Lujan, a Democratic state official in New Mexico, won the seat of Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., who ran successfully for the Senate. Lujan was born in Santa Fe, but comes from a seventh-generation New Mexico family and grew up on the family farm raising cattle, sheep and chickens.

Dan Maffei, a Democrat and former Capitol Hill press secretary, won the seat of retiring Republican Rep. James Walsh, who had served on the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. Maffei defeated the Republican candidate, Dale Sweetland, a farmer and former Onondaga County legislator.

Kurt Schrader, a Democratic veterinarian, won the seat of retiring Rep. Darlene Hooley, D-Ore., who waged the campaign for country-of-origin labeling for fruits and vegetables. Schrader and his wife live on a 60-acre farm listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Oregon Farm Bureau endorsed Schrader.

Glenn Thompson, a Republican health care executive, won the district of retiring Republican Rep. John Peterson in central Pennsylvania. Thompson opposed interstate tolls and called for expanding rural Medicare initiatives.

Glenn Nye, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer, defeated Rep. Thelma Drake, R-Va., in a rural district.

Cynthia Lummis, a Republican who won the seat of retiring Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., grew up on the family ranch near Cheyenne, Wyo.

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