Farm Bill Impacting Close Congressional Races

DC Dialogue

Several House and Senate races remain too close to call.

Published on: October 8, 2012

Nearly a dozen House agricultural committee members are in races that are currently close and the Senate has some tough battles too. And as the farm bill got punted due to the election year, it is definitely coming up in this election cycle on both sides of the aisle.

Debates quickly turn to incumbent members for not doing enough to get the farm bill passed, whether they signed the discharge petition, being too closely tied to House Speaker John Boehner who hasn't allowed for the bill to come up for a vote, or extreme fiscal conservatives who see the farm bill as excessive and unneeded.

On the House side, two incumbents and members of the ag committee Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, and Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, are pitted against each other in Iowa's third district. The state's fourth district has Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, against the wife of Secretary of Agriculture Christie Vilsack.

According to Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball (Univ. of Va.), Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., is currently in a contest with Julian Schreibman that is seen as a tossup. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., is in a race that is leaning GOP. Both incumbent Ag Committee members Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, and Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., are in contests that are described as likely GOP.

It appears as of now Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., has moved from likely Democrat to safe Democrat in Sabato's ratings.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association reported there are several close Senate races this year in cattle country.

One closely watched race is the Wisconsin U.S. Senate race between former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson and his Democratic opponent Tammy Baldwin. The Wisconsin seat is one of several in the Midwest that the Republican Party is counting on to help win control of the Senate, NCBA said. Wisconsin has been a consistently Democratic state, but in 2010 Republicans gained the governorship, a U.S. Senate seat and two Democratic House seats.

In Montana, Rep. Denny Rehberg is running for the Senate against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. Both candidates have experience in D.C., and according to a poll by Mason-Dixon and published in the Missoulian, Rehberg is favored by 48% of those polled, with Tester coming in at 45%. The two candidates also come in as having unanimous partisan support, with 91% of Republicans supporting Rehberg and 92% of Democrats supporting Tester.

Nevada is also an important state during this election. Sen. Dean Heller is running for re-election against Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev. Nevada is a key state in the national race for control of the Democratic-led Senate, in which Republicans need to gain four seats to win control.

In Virginia, the state’s former Republican governor George Allen is fighting for a Senate seat against another former Virginia governor, Democrat Tim Kaine. Polls show the race is currently tied, NCBA reported.

Much is riding on who wins the Senate and the House as well as the White House. Depending on election results, we will know more about when and what kind of farm bill we could get.

Keith Good of farmpolicy.com has done an excellent Snapshot of Close Election Races that he has been updating as new information becomes available.