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Scott, seeking to chair House Ag, calls for racial justice and economic equality

Scott is first in seniority on the committee following the defeat of chairman Collin Peterson in Tuesday’s general election.

Nine-term Georgia Rep. David Scott asked House Democrats to name him Agriculture Committee chairman with a call on Thursday for racial justice and economic equality in agriculture, rural economic development, and a safety net for hungry Americans. Scott, who was born on a South Carolina farm during segregation, would be the first Black and the first Georgian to chair the committee if he is selected during shadow campaigning that will culminate in a caucus vote early next year.

Scott is first in seniority on the committee following the defeat of chairman Collin Peterson in Tuesday’s general election, and he was the first lawmaker to announce for the post. The representative of a suburban Atlanta district with 313 farms, Scott stressed his agricultural ties in a letter to fellow Democrats. He has been a member of the Agriculture Committee since he was elected to the House in 2002 and currently chairs the subcommittee on commodity exchanges and credit.

“Each hearing, markup, and legislative action must take a step forward toward building a more equitable, dynamic, and resilient agriculture industry that lays forth a new path for future generations,” wrote Scott. “I have cultivated years of expertise and strong partnerships throughout my years of work on these issues, and I believe I am well suited to take on these challenges.”

Seniority is highly valued by Democratic leaders, along with merit, commitment to the party agenda, and caucus diversity, when choosing a nominee to chair a House committee. Nominations then go to a vote by party members.

California Rep. Jim Costa, who represents an agricultural district around Fresno in the Central Valley, was testing support for a possible bid for the Agriculture chair, reported Politico. Costa is second in seniority to Scott on the committee. Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, No. 3 in seniority, has been mentioned as a possible candidate as well. A Fudge spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

A dignified and deliberate speaker, Scott, 75, founded an advertising company in Atlanta and served in the state House and Senate before running for Congress. He spoke in support of Sonny Perdue during his Senate confirmation hearing to be President Trump’s agriculture secretary; they served together in the Georgia Senate. Both Costa and Scott, like Peterson, are members of the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats.

“I have fought hard to elevate the needs of our vulnerable communities, ensure a stable and skilled farm workforce, and invest in programs that will serve to strengthen our agriculture industry for future generations,” wrote Scott. “As our nation grapples with a racial reckoning, we must ensure that racial justice and economic equality is brought forth in our farming industry.”

Democrats have comparatively few long-term members — just a half-dozen or so — on the Agriculture Committee, a reflection of the urban-rural gap in voting patterns. In recent years, Democrats have fared well in urban and suburban districts, while Republicans are strongest in rural districts, which are often the source of Agriculture Committee members.

Eight elections involving Agriculture Committee members were unresolved as of Thursday afternoon. Incumbents led in six of the races. Democrats T.J. Cox of California and Anthony Brindisi of New York trailed their Republican challengers. Cox was in a rematch with former Rep. David Valadeo.

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