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Pinke: Campbell better-suited for ag commissioner

Tom Campbell should be running for North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner. He is a farmer, an agribusinessman, a state legislator and a solid speaker. He is willing to travel the state to meet and listen to constituents. Campbell has visited our r...

Katie Pinke
Katie Pinke

Tom Campbell should be running for North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner. He is a farmer, an agribusinessman, a state legislator and a solid speaker. He is willing to travel the state to meet and listen to constituents. Campbell has visited our rural North Dakota community of 1,000 people twice in the past six months. I admire his tenacity and willingness to get his name on the ballot-but now he's not even running for office.

Campbell had an exploratory committee to run for governor in 2016, was passed over for lieutenant governor and then spent $745,000 of his own money to run an unsuccessful bid first for the Republican endorsement for U.S. Senate before switching to the U.S. House. This past week, he announced his plans to end his House campaign and not continue to the June primary.

North Dakota is one of only 12 states to elect an ag commissioner. Governors in the other 38 states appoint their ag commissioner/director. I know ag commissioner is not a highly sought-after elected office, but it is critical to our economy.

Most of my non-ag friends couldn't name their state's ag commissioner. But if you buy food, like to eat or want to support farmers and ranchers, you should get connected to your ag commissioner. The ag commissioner leads and oversees many regulatory aspects of the industry along with advocate for policy and legislation.

Did you know the North Dakota ag commissioner serves on the Industrial Commission with the attorney general and governor? The three-person Industrial Commission oversees the Oil and Gas division along with the Bank of North Dakota, State Mill and additional oversight in key state business. The role of ag commissioner is extremely important to our state's two largest economic drivers, agriculture and energy.

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And Campbell missed his chance in 2018 to challenge and run for the office he's most qualified for in North Dakota. Not everyone with successful business careers such as North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum or President Donald Trump go straight from their corner business offices to the highest elected offices. There are different paths to follow in life-paths that don't cost $745,000 with nothing to show.

What if more candidates focused on what they know best and ran for a lesser-known office? Now more than ever we need public servants, not career politicians.

No matter how much money you spend, it's not a guarantee you'll win the hearts and minds of voters.

When I met Campbell at an event this past fall, I said, "please run for agriculture commissioner." Based on his look, he didn't want to talk about the suggestion but said "any ink" I give him would be good. I held off to see where he landed in his endeavors to run for U.S. Senate and then House.

It's been well-documented I worked at the North Dakota Department of Agriculture several years ago. It was unpleasant at times under current Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring's leadership, which I documented with human resources. I do not need to rehash those 14 months in this column.

This past week, Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Mississippi farmer and state ag commissioner, was appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill Senator Thad Cochran's seat. Hyde-Smith was a longtime Mississippi legislator before being appointed ag commissioner. Now she is the first female congressperson from Mississippi.

You can become a U.S. Senator after serving as state ag commissioner. It might not be in a political playbook but when it's about serving the people and industry you're passionate about you can forge your own path. I think that route would have made more sense for Campbell to follow.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at kpinke@agweek.com , or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.

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