The 116th Congress members-elect pose for a group photo on the East Front Plaza of the US Capitol in Washington, DC on November 14, 2018. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)
Historic turnover after the midterm elections may have shifted the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives, but the vast majority of relationships established between lawmakers and the floral industry will remain in place in the new Congress.
That’s according to Shawn McBurney, SAF’s senior director of government relations, who has spent the weeks since the midterms reviewing the returns to analyze where the industry now stands in Washington and to determine which legislators supported by SAFPAC, SAF’s political action committee, will be returning to Washington.
“Just as political pundits use the days and weeks following an election to evaluate their party’s policies, messaging and election implications, SAFPAC does largely the same,” McBurney said. “We particularly focus on the election results impact on our congressional supporters as well as the opportunities and challenges new policy priorities can bring.”
Member turnover was heavy in this election, McBurney noted, with House turnover estimated to be slightly more than 23 percent — a figure that’s high enough to rank the midterms as generating the third most turnover since 1974, trailing only elections in 1992 (26.1 percent) and 2010 (23.5 percent). The elections themselves capped an eventful year of lawmaker changes.
“During the course of the last year we’ve seen 15 members resign, 31 announce their retirement and last week’s election brought nearly 40 seats changing parties,” McBurney said. “Fortunately, election night 2018 has revealed that not only were SAFPAC contributions helpful in supporting friends of the floriculture industry in Congress but the vast majority of those relationships will be there into the next Congress.”
As an organization, SAF has seen significant recent success from a government relations standpoint in recent years, and McBurney said there are many opportunities to look forward to in 2019. Although the major frustrations over labor and immigration remain, there have been some more floriculture-specific issues where SAF has succeeded in convincing lawmakers to support the industry, including significant increases in funding for the Floriculture & Nursery Research Initiative, relaunching the Floriculture Crops Report Survey. The expected passage of a new Farm Bill could also include helpful amendments to the Plant Variety Protection Act
In the House of Representatives, four members who received SAFPAC support announced months ago that they would be stepping down, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), Chairman of the Appropriations Committee Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-New Jersey) and Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Florida), a longtime floriculture supporter and member of the House Subcommittee for Agriculture.
Overall, 15 of the 17 (87.5 percent) House members that SAFPAC supported who ran for reelection won their races. SAFPAC saw the same winning percentage in the Senate with only one loss, Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana).
“We are encouraged by both our recent successes, the fact that supporters of our industry largely remain, and opportunities to develop new relationships,” McBurney said.
Please click here for a full list of the House and Senate members that SAFPAC supported, as well as the election results.
Mary Westbrook is editor in chief of Floral Management.