Friday, September 21, 2007

Who will be the next Secretary of Ag

The fun part of politics is often the speculation behind the scenes of what the next move will be, let the fun begin:

Will the next Secretary come from Texas:

Former Texas Congressman Larry Combest

Often mentioned is former Rep. Larry Combest, a nine-term Texas Republican who chaired the Agriculture Committee from 1999-2003 and oversaw passage of the previous farm bill passed by Congress.

Reached at home in the Texas Panhandle on Thursday, Combest said he hadn't heard about President Bush's announcement of Johanns' resignation. If the administration does call, Combest said he wouldn't comment on those calls.

"I am interested in American agriculture and have spent a lifetime in it," said Combest, a lobbyist for the agriculture industry. "I'm happy with what I'm doing now, and I'm not looking for a career change at this time."

Former Texas Congressman Charlie Stenholm:

Charlie Stenholm, another former congressman from Texas, worked closely with Combest on the previous farm bill while he was the ranking Democrat on the Agriculture Committee.

"I don't expect a call, and I would not be interested," said Stenholm, also a lobbyist. "This administration redistricted me out of my job. Why would they ask me, and why would I want it?"

Stenholm lost his seat after 26 years in Congress to first-term Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, after Texas lawmakers redrew congressional districts to favor GOP candidates.

Former Texas House Speaker Pete Laney:

Former Texas House Speaker Pete Laney, a Democrat, also has been mentioned as a possible replacement. Laney, a West Texas cotton farmer, said Thursday he did not know if he was in the running and would wait to see if he's asked before making a decision.

During the final years of his tenure as speaker, Laney became an ally of then-Gov. Bush, and their relationship was a fundamental part of the bipartisan image Bush enjoyed while in Texas. Laney introduced Bush to the world as president-elect after the Florida recount ended in 2000. The two have remained close.

USDA Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner was named to the interim spot and may be a candidate for the permanent position:

In naming Conner acting Ag Secretary, Bush said, “Mike has a good team at the Department of Agriculture and so I feel very comfortable asking Chuck Connor, the Deputy Secretary, to serve as the Acting Secretary.”

Conrad, in commenting on the selection of Conner, said, “I have had a long, positive working relationship with Chuck Conner. He is very knowledgeable. He knows farm policy and is someone who will respected in the negotiations on the farm bill. That’s not to say I have always agreed with him. But I do respect him. He is a good man.”

Buis also applauded Conner’s experience in farm legislation saying, “Acting Secretary Chuck Conner has a wealth of experience and understanding of the intricacies of farm policy. He has been an active participant in crafting farm legislation in the past and I look forward to working with him in the future.”

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