Ag Policy Blog

Some Key Races on Senate and House Agriculture Committees

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Just before U.S. Senate leadership named farm-bill conferees last week, DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom predicted the names with a list going purely by committee seniority for both parties. Of the five Republicans and four Democrats, Hagstrom got eight of the names right, but missed one.

Democrats jumped Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and picked Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

Heitkamp's choice reflects how important the North Dakota senator is to Democrats in the fall. Heitkamp's Senate opponent, GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer, had been named as a farm-bill conferee weeks earlier by the House.

National Journal's Hotline ranks Heitkamp as the most vulnerable Democrat in the fall election in which Democrats have to defend 24 seats (including the two independents who caucus with Democrats). Republicans, meanwhile have nine seats to defend. Heitkamp is trying for a second term in a state President Trump won by 36 points, Hotline noted.

Heitkamp isn't the only vulnerable Democrat who also serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee. Hotline also ranks Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly high on that vulnerability list as well. Donnelly has more cash on hand than Braun, according to second-quarter campaign filings, but Indiana is a traditionally red state and Braun is a businessman who knocked off two congressmen in the primary for the chance to face Donnelly.

While not on the Ag Committee, Sen. Jon Tester, a third-generation farmer in Montana, also still remains strong on agricultural issues and is a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies. Tester also ranks in top ten on that vulnerability list, partly because Trump won Montana by more than 20 points in 2016. Tester faces Montana State Auditor Matt Rosendale, who has gotten campaign support by both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence as Tester and Rosendale debate over who is more Montana than the other.…

House Races

Of 435 House seats, Cook Political Report ranks 101 competitive races. The current party mix is 236 Republicans, 193 Democrats and six vacancies.

On the House Agriculture Committee, the retirement of two Minnesota Democrats, Reps. Tim Walz (MN-1) and Rick Nolan, (MN-8) put both of those seats in toss-up positions, mainly because those districts are leaning more Republican in the past two presidential elections.

As far as other Democrats on the Ag Committee, Ranking Member Collin Peterson, (MN-07) is listed as "likely Democratic" to hold his seat. Rep. Ann Kuster, (NH-02) also falls in the same category. No other Democrats on the Ag Committee are listed as facing a tough race at the moment.

On the GOP side of the Ag Committee, Rep. Jeff Denham, (CA-10), is ranked in a toss-up to defend his seat in California's northern Central Valley. His opponent, Josh Harder, is a junior college business teacher who was just endorsed by former President Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton carried Denham's district by three points in '16.

Another GOP Ag Committee member, Rep. Mike Bost, (IL-12) represents much of southwest Illinois. He's seeking his third term after serving 20 years in the Illinois House. Bost faces Brendan Kelly, a county State's Attorney and former Navy officer. The district was traditionally Democratic, but Trump won by 15 points.

Rep. John Faso, (NY-19), also falls in the toss-up category. Faso's race has drawn attention of the New York Times because Faso called his Democratic opponent Antonio Delgado unfit for office because Delgado, a Harvard-educated attorney, also was a rapper whose album use the N-word. Trump carried Faso's district by 7 points.

Falling more in the "Leans Republican" category on the Ag Committee are Republicans Rep. Rodney Davis, (IL-13) and Don Bacon, (NE-02).

Cook Political Report House Competitive Races:…

NBC Looks at 65 Races Likely to Decide the House:…

Chris Clayton can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN


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