Northey passes on governor's race

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has been saying for months that he was leaning toward running for re-election rather than for governor in 2010. On Saturday he made it official.

I announced to the crowd at Bill’s BBQ Bash that I will run for re-election as Iowa Secy of Ag in 2010.

I’ve long felt that Northey would be a long-shot for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, having gone on record supporting a gas tax increase. Even if Northey won the GOP nomination, I think that with no base of support in eastern Iowa population centers, he would have been quite an underdog against Governor Chet Culver.

I’m curious to see whether Northey continues to employ the high-profile campaign staffers he hired in May, or whether they will jump to a different Republican gubernatorial contender.

Northey will be heavily favored against Francis Thicke, the most likely Democratic candidate for secretary of agriculture. Thicke is highly qualified and articulate, however, and has the potential to energize parts of the Democratic base who are dissatisfied with Culver and our statehouse leaders.

Now that Northey has ruled out running for governor, he will be able to focus more on his current job. I wonder whether anything will come of his working group on farmland protection. Northey announced plans to create it last August during his keynote address to the annual meeting of 1000 Friends of Iowa. However, the working group has only met once, in December 2008.

Iowa has been losing prime farmland at an alarming rate in the last few decades. Northey could do a real service for our country’s food security if he would identify and advocate for some farmland protection strategies that have been successful in other states.

UPDATE: Northey is searching for ways to save money at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, which was allocated about 15 percent less in the 2010 budget than in the fiscal year that just ended.

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