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Crawford endorsement of Northey ‘not surprising,’ Democrats say
Long-time Democratic strategist Jerry Crawford snubbed his party’s nominee for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, providing his endorsement to Republican incumbent Bill Northey. While the move might seem odd at first blush, most feel that the endorsement is little more than an acknowledgment of a shared agricultural goal in the state.
“Frankly, I’m happy that [Crawford] has decided to come out of the closet,” said Chris Petersen, president of the Iowa Farmers Union and 2nd Vice Chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party. “It’s never been about politics for Crawford, but has always been about securing the interests of industrialized agriculture and his own wealth.”
Crawford, a high-powered Des Moines attorney, has been a fixture within Iowa politics for decades. He has served as the chairman of the Polk County and Iowa Democratic parties, and has been in a leadership role of numerous presidential campaigns through Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. In fact, during 2010 Democratic primaries for U.S. Senate when candidate Roxanne Conlin was called out for having a close relationship with Crawford and accepting contributions from his wife, she noted that it would be difficult to find a person active and successful in Iowa Democratic politics that did not have a picture of themselves with Crawford.
The attorney, who has lobbied at the state level for Monsanto Co. and other agricultural interests, made waves last winter when he agreed to lobby for Monsanto at a federal level. The agreement places Crawford, a long-standing friend and supporter of former Gov. Tom Vilsack, in close proximity to mostly friendly federal officials just as they launch an unprecedented antitrust inquiry into a wide swath of agricultural industries — including seeds, which are Monsanto’s largest interest.
Legal papers filed in Ohio show that Crawford also represented the interests of the DeCoster agribusiness companies. DeCoster owned, and his son operated, Wright County Egg, an Iowa-based company that was forced to recall millions of eggs in the wake of a national Salmonella outbreak. The Ohio legal matter centered around DeCoster’s attempt to hide his association with another egg company to avoid state regulators. Earlier in Iowa, the DeCoster pork businesses were labeled as state’s first habitual violators of regulations. At that time the mere suggestion of association with DeCoster was likely enough to end the gubernatorial aspirations of Republican Doug Gross.
Although there have been speculation that the origin of donations made by the DeCoster family to the Democratic Governor’s Association could be traced back to Crawford, who once sat on the organization’s board, no proof of such allegations have been made public.
“This is not surprising,” Francis Thicke, Democratic nominee for Ag Secretary told The Iowa Independent Monday morning. “Crawford has lobbied for Monsanto and represented [Austin 'Jack'] DeCoster, who’s company was at the heart of the recent egg recall. I’ve spoken out against so-called ‘big ag’ interests and have stood for increased safety regulation within the egg industry.
“What this shows is that Crawford and Northey have shared values on the future of agriculture in our state.”
Thicke indicated that while he has campaigned for pro-active, sustainable agriculture in Iowa, Crawford and Northey are interested in maintaining the status quo, regardless of the consequences to Iowa’s farms and famers.
Crawford made his endorsement of Northey on WHO-TV Sunday, noting that he was voting for the Republican because of his support for biotechnology.
On Monday, Thicke garnered the endorsement of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the man Time Magazine named as “one of the heroes of the planet” for his leadership in river cleanup.
“Francis has demonstrated he has the vision and leadership necessary to make our food and agriculture safe, healthy, humane and environmentally sound,” Kennedy said.
The Thicke campaign has also been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Jim Hightower, author Michael Pollan, 350.org founder Bill McKibben, Food Inc. director and producer Robert Kenner, Land Institute founder Wes Jackson, and Leopold Institute at ISU Professor Emeritus Fred Kirschenmann.