Thursday, November 26, 2020

Clyburn promotes Fudge for USDA to get it focused on hunger; Heitkamp and Vilsack are more traditional options

Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio
The first public fight over a big appointment by President-elect Joe Biden is about who will be secretary of agriculture. It pits "a powerful Black lawmaker who wants to refocus the Agriculture Department on hunger against traditionalists who believe the department should be a voice for rural America," reports Jonathan Martin of The New York Times.

"Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking Black member of Congress and perhaps Mr. Biden’s most important supporter in the Democratic primary, is making an all-out case for Rep. Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio, an African-American Democrat from Ohio," Martin writes.

While the nutrition-focused faction is all behind Fudge, the traditionalists have two candidates: former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor who was secretary in the Obama administration. “I don’t know why we’ve got to be recycling,” Clyburn told Martin, "echoing complaints that Mr. Biden only represents Mr. Obama’s third term," and jabbing at Vilsack: “There’s a strong feeling that Black farmers didn’t get a fair shake” from USDA under him.

The choice "is pinching Mr. Biden between two of his central campaign themes, which he repeated in plain terms this month in his victory speech: that he owes a special debt to African-American voters, and that he wants to be a president for all Americans, including those who didn’t vote for him," Martyin notes. "And nowhere did Mr. Biden fare worse than in rural America, particularly the most heavily white parts of the farm belt."

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