Elections

Farmers voted him out of office. So why would Trump want him as ag secretary?

Rep. Tim Huelskamp, firebrand conservative from Kansas, wants to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the new Trump administration. He recently lost his Republican primary and will not be returning to Capitol Hill as a member of Congress in January.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp, firebrand conservative from Kansas, wants to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the new Trump administration. He recently lost his Republican primary and will not be returning to Capitol Hill as a member of Congress in January. AP

U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a firebrand conservative from Western Kansas, wants to be Agriculture Secretary in the new Trump administration.

Voters in the heavily rural first district of Kansas booted Huelskamp out of office in the Republican primary on Aug. 2. His opponent, physician Roger Marshall, had attacked Huelskamp for voting against the farm bill and being ousted from the House Agriculture Committee, a seat that had been held by Kansans for decades.

Huelskamp also lost the crucial endorsement of the Kansas Farm Bureau. And he’s deeply unpopular among many of his fellow members of Congress.

But at a forum on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, a Breitbart News reporter asked Huelskamp “to share with us any discussions you’ve had about becoming agriculture secretary,” according to an article in the farming newsletter Agri-Pulse.

President-elect Donald Trump recently named Stephen Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart, as chief White House strategist. Bannon also ran Trump’s campaign in its final months.

Huelskamp told Agri-Pulse that “many, many people” have been talking to him about the agriculture secretary job.

“People who are in the room have been talking to me,” Huelskamp said. “If you’re looking to be an outsider, I would be quite a pick to fit that. We need to drain the swamp. I certainly am not part of that.”

Huelskamp also told the conservative publication The Daily Caller on Wednesday night that’s he’s in communication with the Trump transition team.

“The resume is going in and we’ve had electronic communications,” Huelskamp told The Daily Caller.

The congressman, who serves as chairman of the House tea party caucus, suggested the recent purge of lobbyists from the Trump transition team could open the door to someone like him, who has a strong anti-establishment reputation and experience as a farmer. He pointed out that it has been 25 years since a farmer has led the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“There’s no flight to the Trump Tower or anything like that, but I’m pretty excited about what I saw in the last 24/48 hours,” said Huelskamp, who has a Ph.D. in agriculture policy. “The same old folks that always do transition – we need new folks to bring that in.”

Trump’s transition team didn’t mention Huelskamp’s name in a Thursday morning call with reporters. Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer said the transition office would name and dispatch a “landing team” to the Department of Agriculture next Tuesday or Wednesday to start coordinating the handover with the Obama administration.

Huelskamp’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Vera Bergengruen contributed to this article.

Lindsay Wise: 202-383-6007, @lindsaywise

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