At the Star Tribune Tuesday, Stephen Montemayor reported in After Trump election, GOP committee will vet candidates for two federal judgeships that Erik Paulsen, the senior Republican serving in Minnesota's congressional delegation, will have increased influence in guiding the Trump administration's choices for federal judges.
While US senators ordinarily take the lead in these matters, Minnesota's two senators are Democrats; thus, the vetting process will fall on Paulsen's shoulders.
This influence won't stop with the judicial branch. A source in Minnesota's agriculture lobby reminded us this week that political appointees also must be vetted for the state offices of two important USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) agencies: the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Rural Development.
FSA administers farm bill programs ranging from Conservation Compliance to Agricultural Risk Coverage / Price Loss Coverage as well as farm loans to farmers and ranchers. Rural Development offers "loans, grants and loan guarantees to support essential services such as housing, economic development, health care, first responder services and equipment, and water, electric and communications infrastructure."
After an election cycle during which Minnesota's rural voters were buried in Republican legislative campaign messages about how the evil metro shouldn't be making decisions about Greater Minnesota, it's ironic to see these important choices in the hands of a congressman who represents suburban areas of Anoka, Hennepin and Carver counties.
We're told that Sixth District Congressman Tom Emmer, who lives just over the Hennepin County line and whose district is somewhat more rural, will be helping Representative Paulsen out. Thank heavens for small favors: while neither Paulsen nor Emmer served on ag committees during their time in the Minnesota House, Emmer did serve on the US House Ag Committee during his first five months in office. In late May 2015, he was appointed to the House Financial Services Committee; though he tried for a waiver in order to remain on on both of his former committees—Agriculture and Foreign Affairs—it was not to be.
Bluestem suspects that both congressmen will lean heavily on the advice of Emmer's Chief of Staff, former state representative David FitzSimmons. While most political observers in Minnesota recall him as one of four Republicans who voted for marriage equality, those of us in farm country (and people who check his LinkedIn profile and old state EIS) also know he's a managing partner in FitzSimmons Family Farms, LLC.
It's associated the Wright County branch of the FitzSimmons brothers' operations that morphed into Protein Sources in Blue Earth County in the late 1990s. Republican state party treasurer Bron Scherer is also a partner.
Certainly, Emmer's COS is grounded in production agriculture--and Republican inner circles, mostly.
The current FSA state head is Swift County's Grant Herfindahl, who was appointed in March 2016. Former Blue Earth County Commissioner Colleen Landkamer has served as Minnesota's Rural Development head since 2009.
The last Republican FSA head? Steve Wenzel, of whom Strib blogger Michael Brodkorb wrote in Former DFL lawmaker running to be Trump delegate to Republican National Convention:
Former DFL legislator Steve Wenzel, who served in the Minnesota House of Representatives for almost 30 years, is running for election to be a delegate to the Republican National Convention from Minnesota's Eight Congressional District Convention in the delegate slot allocated for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
In an interview this afternoon, Wenzel said while he is running to be a Trump delegate, he is actually a supporter of the presidential candidacies of both Ted Cruz and John Kasich.
If elected, Wenzel would be required to vote for Trump on the first ballot, but he is hoping that mulitiple ballots will be needed to elect the Republican nominee for president at the Republican National Convention.
"I am not for Donald Trump and I would not be voting for him on the second or third ballot," said Wenzel.
Wenzel was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1972 and served until 2001, when he was appointed by President George W. Bush as the U.S. Department of Agriculture State Director in Minnesota, where he served until 2009. . . .
Would that mischievous recent history with the President-elect Trump cause Wenzel to be excluded from the vetting process? We'll learn soon enough--first we'll need an ag secretary.
Calls to Paulsen and Emmer's offices for this story were not returned.
Photo: Eric Paulsen and a corn dog at the state fair. Close enough to farming, right?
If you appreciate our posts and original analysis, you can mail contributions (payable to Sally Jo Sorensen, 33166 770th Ave, Ortonville, MN 56278) or use the paypal button in the upper right hand corner of this post.
Or you can contribute via this link to paypal; use email sally.jo.sorensen at gmail.com as recipient.