IA-04, IA-Gov?: Bill Northey endorses Steve King for Congress

The Republican National Convention delegate elections grabbed most of the attention from today’s Iowa GOP district conventions, but Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey made some news at the fourth district gathering in Fort Dodge. Kathie Obradovich reported for the Des Moines Register,

“When I think of somebody I want in the room talking with conservative congressmen and senators, a potential president, on ethanol issues, I want Steve King,” [Northey] said.

King, in turn, suggested a promotion for Northey — but not to governor, a job for which he is often mentioned as a potential candidate. He noted there will be a new U.S. Agriculture secretary next year. “We’ll no longer have Secretary (Tom) Vilsack. I think maybe Secretary Northey sounds pretty good to me.”

King touted the quadrupling of ag land values during the first 12 years he was in Congress. “We should not forget, those are the best 12 years that agriculture has ever had in the history of this state during that period of time,” he said.

You don’t have to be an economist to know the rise in Iowa farmland values since 2003 has very little connection to who represented our state in Congress. But let’s leave that aside for now. Northey and King have long had a friendly political relationship. The ag secretary cut a radio ad King aired near the end of his toughest re-election campaign, the 2012 race against Christie Vilsack in a substantially redrawn district. Click through to read the transcript of that commercial, in which Northey touted King’s record on agriculture issues and support from farm groups. I would not be surprised to see a similar testimonial hit the airwaves before King’s June 7 primary against State Senator Rick Bertrand. People linked to the ethanol industry are among Bertrand’s heavy-hitter supporters, largely because King endorsed Senator Ted Cruz for president, despite Cruz’s stand on the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Speaking of the presidential race, King discussed possible brokered convention scenarios on this weekend’s edition of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program. He predicted that “neither Trump nor Cruz delegates are going to tolerate anyone coming in from the outside that hasn’t been a candidate,” such as U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan. The full video and transcript are here; I’ve enclosed relevant excerpts below.

Northey is widely considered likely to run for governor in 2018 rather than for a fourth term as secretary of agriculture. King’s support could be helpful in a primary that will almost certainly include at least two other candidates: Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett. Neither has a strong base in rural Iowa, although Corbett has tried to bolster his credentials with the farm community by touting all-voluntary efforts to reduce agricultural runoff and bashing some efforts to regulate farm-based pollution.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

Representative Steve King on the April 8 edition of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program:

Henderson: Congressman, you were hip deep in the presidential race here in Iowa. Let’s talk about nominating someone to represent your party in November at the top of the ballot. Why shouldn’t the person who has the most votes be the GOP nominee?

King: Well, the rules are that the person that can win the majority of the votes of the delegates at the National Convention in Cleveland gets the nomination. And that’s what I’m for. We have the rules. We need to play by the rules. And when the rules produce a nominee then republicans need to get behind and support that nominee.

Henderson: How do you go to other countries and say, one man, one vote, embrace democracy and then you have a process in which it is possible that the person who had the most votes is not the standard bearer for your party?

King: Well, we understand the rules from the beginning. We don’t elect a president based upon a popular election either so it’s a pretty easy concept for Americans to understand. Foreign countries it’s a little bit different. But we have, in the Republican Party, for all but 195 or 200 delegates who are unbound, the balance of them are bound by the results of the vote of the people. And I think we need to understand also that these primary votes and sometimes even the caucus votes don’t always reflect the actual votes of republicans because we have open primaries in places like New Hampshire where people can walk in and ask for either a democrat or a republican ballot, they may be neither or they may be the opposite. […]

Obradovich: Are you concerned that you’re going to get to the convention and there will be an effort to rewrite the rules so that somebody besides Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, who has won eight states, could actually get the nomination perhaps on later ballots, somebody like Paul Ryan for example?

King: I am concerned about that but I’m also watching as the delegates are chosen, many of the delegates have not been chosen at this point and we will be doing so this weekend at district conventions and then at the state convention later on in May in Iowa. 49 other states and the territories engaging in this too. But I’m going to guess that 70% or more of the delegates, and if you look at the recent vote, 70% or more of the votes are going to either Trump or Cruz. And if that is reflected in the delegates at the convention, and I think it will be, then the delegates are not going to tolerate a rules change that denies the nomination to either Trump or Cruz. And I think at that point it’s a high risk endeavor to try to strategize to bring somebody other than Trump or Cruz to the nomination.

[…] They wrote the rules in 2012 to try to address the 2012 convention if it were going to be a rerun in 2016. And they’ve got an opportunity to adjust the rules again going in to the convention, which I’m not encouraging. But fraught with danger? Yes.

Obradovich: Danger to the party? Where is that danger do you think?

King: To the party, to the country, to the voice of the people. We want to have a convention that is clean, we want one that reflects the will of the people, we want a nominee who has the support of the party and one who can reach out across the aisle for discerning democrats and independents.

Borg: Well let me ask then, Congressman King, let’s just say that Paul Ryan, who hasn’t been running, would that irreparably tear the party apart if a person who hasn’t been campaigning for president were elected, were nominated?

King: I think it would initiate considerable difficulty. We can’t quite define what drama might get us to a point where that could be successful. But as it looks now, neither Trump nor Cruz delegates are going to tolerate anyone coming in from the outside that hasn’t been a candidate. Think of this, 17 republican candidates started this process. No party in the history of the country has fielded so much talent competing for the nomination. If we can’t find a president out of those 17 and we have to go outside that, then I think it could fracture the party. But I don’t think that will happen.

APRIL 11 UPDATE: The Sioux City Journal’s Bret Hayworth quoted from a King campaign statement about the endorsement:

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of Iowa’s top ag official,” King said. “I have worked closely with Secretary Northey on a variety of issues including the Farm Bill, renewable fuels, and opposition to over-regulation. I respect Bill’s leadership as well as his vision for our state.”

Hayworth also mentioned that Northey got a standing ovation from IA-04 delegates when he endorsed King, according to The Iowa Republican blogger Craig Robinson. Maybe Bertrand opted not to address the convention because he anticipated the crowd would be against him.

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