Thicke asks opponent to talk directly to people through debates
FAIRFIELD, Iowa, October 18, 2010 – Iowa Agriculture Secretary candidate Francis Thicke called on his opponent to take the campaign to voters through debates, rather than through media paid for by Big Ag. Thicke has accepted invitations to debate incumbent Bill Northey four more times before the Nov. 2 election, but Northey has yet to agree.
Northey’s debate negotiator, Washington, D.C. political consultant Reid Crawford, told the Thicke campaign that Northey’s priorities were getting his crops harvested and that he would be unable to schedule more debates.
Thicke said debates are a respected part of the political process that gives voters a chance to hear candidates answering questions in their own words. Instead, Northey is buying television and radio advertising to give voters political spin instead of spontaneous dialogue. The two candidates have debated twice, once in Northey’s home territory in Spencer, and again last week on a Centerville radio station.
Market concentration in agriculture is emerging as an issue of concern among voters this election cycle, so it’s no surprise that Northey doesn’t want to explain his support for continuation of the status quo in a face-to-face debate, the Thicke campaign said.
“Mr. Northey has decided to take big contributions from Big Agribusiness PACs representing Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont and many others,” Thicke said. “These agribusiness giants have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.”
The Thicke campaign said it would be one thing for Northey to refuse to debate if invitations had not been forthcoming from media across the state. The campaign said that’s a signal that the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture race has captured the interest of all Iowans – those farmers in the countryside left at a competitive disadvantage by Big Ag market concentration and those consumers in urban areas concerned about water quality and the environmental effects of today’s industrial-scale farming.
“Voters in the Spencer and Centerville areas have had the exposure of debates, but about 90 percent of the voters in the state have not,” Thicke said. “Getting the candidates before the camera and microphone is an essential part of politics. Gauging from the invitations we’ve received to debate, the media are recognizing the importance to all Iowans of the challenges facing agriculture and want to get that an honest, face-to-face discussion before voters, but Mr. Northey is refusing them that opportunity.”
Still on the table is an invitation for a multimedia debate in Fairfield sponsored by the Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce, the Fairfield Ledger and KRUU Radio, all of Fairfield; and KTVO News and the Ottumwa Courier, both of Ottumwa. Thicke traveled to Northey’s home territory to debate at the Clay County Fair in September, and reciprocated by inviting Northey to come to Fairfield, where Thicke and his wife, Susan, run an independent, sustainable dairy and the state’s first on-the-farm dairy processing operation.
Also pending are requests from a Mason City radio station and Iowa Public Radio. Reid Crawford, a Washington, D.C. consultant who is serving as Northey’s debate negotiatior, initially showed interest in finding a mutually acceptable date, but then cited Northey’s busy harvest schedule and ended the negotiations. The Northey campaign also has declined an invitation from Drake University law students – both Democrat and Republican groups joined in the invitation – who have asked to sponsor a debate.
The only other joint appearance Northey has accepted is a taping for a half-hour, four-way conversation on Iowa Public Television with Thicke, Attorney General Tom Miller and Miller’s opponent, Republican Brenna Finday.
Francis Thicke has been a full-time farmer for 27 years, is a scientist with a Ph.D. in agronomy/soil fertility, and has worked in the past at the USDA in Washington, D.C., where he served as National Program Leader for Soil Science. A frequently consulted national expert on agricultural sustainability, Thicke and his wife, Susan, own and operate an 80-cow organic, grass-based dairy near Fairfield, where they process milk on the farm into bottled milk, yogurt and cheese marketed locally through Fairfield grocery stores and restaurants. For additional information, please visit www.FrancisThicke.com.