Peterson explains Sanders support, talks Trump, Cruz, Clinton
Today, after Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., won the Indiana primaries and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Fla., and Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, announced they would drop out of the Republican race, leaving it to Trump, here is a report on how House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., views the presidential race.
Peterson discussed the election during a 60-minute session with the North American Agricultural Journalists on April 25.
Peterson started off by noting that he had recently told the Fargo Forum, a North Dakota newspaper, that if there is a vote on presidential candidates at the Democratic convention this summer in Philadelphia, he will attend and vote for Sanders because Sanders won his congressional district.
Peterson has not attended a national Democratic convention since 2000, but when he met with the journalists, he noted that as a House member he would be a superdelegate and that he had promised several months ago to support whoever his district supported.
“I think superdelegates should follow their districts,” Peterson said. “I don’t think we should have superdelegates in the first place. I will go if we are going to have a vote and if it is going to make a difference.”
Sanders got 63 percent of the vote in Peterson’s 7th District, which is geographically the largest and most rural district in Minnesota. It covers most of the western section of the state, including Moorhead, Fergus Falls, Bemidji, Detroit Lakes, Thief River Falls,Willmar, Marshall, and Alexandria.
Asked how he, as a Blue Dog conservative Democrat, could support Sanders, who has described himself as an independent and a socialist, Peterson said, “I am not dumb. I follow my people.”
Peterson said Sanders won because his district is the most Republican in the nation that is held by a Democrat, and he believes that the more Republican an area is the more liberal the Democrats are because the people in the middle tend to go with the majority.
Although his challenges from Republicans are well known, Peterson noted that he has also been challenged once from the left, but he said the members of the party have dropped that idea “because they have figured out if they didn’t have me, they have a Republican.”
But he also said he agrees with Sanders on income inequality, trade and gun issues.
Peterson said: “I came in with him in ’90. I don’t agree with him all the time. Bernie is right about the income disparity stuff. I am not sure the government can fix it, but it is a big problem.”
“On trade he is more right than wrong,” Peterson said. “We fought NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement]. We more or less got along on dairy policy. Of all the Democrats, he is the most favorable on gun control.”
“I don’t support the Affordable Care Act, I don’t understand what he is proposing but it is probably preferable to what we got.”
One issue on which Peterson disagrees with Sanders is the labeling of foods with genetically modified ingredients. Peterson said he favors the House-passed bill that would establish a voluntary labeling system, while Sanders supports his state’s mandatory labeling bill.
The Vermont labeling program is “hypocritical,” Peterson said, because it exempts dairy products and maple syrup, two of the state’s biggest products.
Of his announced support of Sanders, Peterson said “This is one of the most popular things I have ever done. I’m getting letters from all over the United States praising me.”
Peterson noted that people have told him, “You were Trump before there was Donald Trump” and said he prefers Trump to Cruz.
Noting that “Texas farmers can’t abide Cruz,” Peterson said he thinks Cruz is “dangerous.”
Trump, Peterson said, “would be like [the late President Ronald] Reagan — a big-picture guy. He is good at hiring good people.”
Peterson said he considers Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican and former congressman, to be “the most qualified,” but he also noted that Kasich in the House “was never a big fan of farm programs.”
Peterson said he is now “getting emails from Hillary Clinton delegates not in my district browbeating me,” but that he would have no problem supporting her and believes she would be friendlier to agriculture that President Barack Obama has been.
“Hillary Clinton is from Arkansas,” Peterson said. “She undertands agriculture because of that background. Bill Clinton was not that difficult to deal with on agriculture because he understood agriculture. She would be OK. She would be easier to work with than Obama because of the Arkansas background.”
He said he hopes if Clinton gets elected president she appoints someone in the White House like Marion Berry, an Arkansas farmer who was a Clinton White House Domestic Policy Council staffer and special assistant to the president for agricultural trade and food assistance before he was elected to the House.
Peterson said he hopes that Berry’s success in the White House “is something that hopefully Hillary would remember.”
Of Obama, Peterson said, “The problem with this White House is that you have not had people down there who understood what they were doing. He and I did not have a lot in common.”
He said that White House staff do not talk to him, although a Peterson aide said the White House and Peterson’s staff are in contact.
–The Hagstrom Report
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