Braley's "Farmer" Remark Draws Outcry, Apology

Braley's "Farmer" Remark Draws Outcry, Apology
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Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley hopes to win the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Tom Harkin, but he may have a hard time earning the votes of Hawkeye State farmers after ill-advised comments he made about longtime Sen. Chuck Grassley were caught on video and posted online Tuesday.

Speaking to a group of lawyers in Texas, the Democratic congressman warned his audience that if Republicans win control of the upper chamber, “you might have a farmer from Iowa, who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as chair of  the Senate Judiciary” Committee.

A chuckle from off camera is audible immediately after he utters the words “farmer from Iowa.”

The video, released Tuesday by the GOP opposition research firm America Rising, immediately drew criticism and prompted a mea culpa from Braley.

“I apologize to Senator Grassley and anyone I may have offended. I respect Senator Grassley and enjoy our working relationship even though we disagree on some issues,” the four-term lawmaker said in a statement. He went on to characterize the policies that his GOP opponents support as “bad for Iowa farmers” and touted the work he has done “hand in hand with Iowa farmers to grow Iowa’s farm economy and create good paying Iowa farm jobs.”

A former president of the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary, Braley also touched upon his own family’s agricultural background.

“My parents both grew up on Iowa farms during the Great Depression.  It deeply influenced who they are and who I am, and gave me a profound appreciation for what farmers do for the world.”

One of the Republican candidates vying for the right to run against Braley reacted strongly to his comments in the video. State Sen. Joni Ernst said in a statement: “Bruce Braley thinks the way to suck up to Texas trial lawyers is by bashing Iowa farmers. How out of touch with Iowa can you be? As an Iowa farm girl myself, I find it amusing that Braley thinks what Iowans need is yet another trial lawyer or outside Texas influences.”

The reference to “Texas influences” is likely a double takedown: Ernst’s main GOP primary opponent is Mark Jacobs, former CEO of Houston-based Reliant Energy.

A statement on Jacobs’ campaign website was equally harsh of Braley, saying his “ignorant remarks are yet another reminder that he only aims to serve one group: trial lawyers nationwide; not Iowans. To insinuate that someone like Chuck Grassley, who has served this state so honorably, is not fit to be a Committee Chair -- because he is just ‘a farmer from Iowa’ is offensive. Agriculture is the backbone of who we are as a people. I’ll take Senator Grassley’s common sense over Bruce Braley’s expertise in suing people any day.”

Polling shows Braley with a comfortable lead over the slate of Republicans also running. Jacobs, Braley’s closest opponent, trails by nine points in a March 13 Quinnipiac poll

The timing of the video release was especially unfortunate for Braley given that Tuesday was National Agriculture Day.

Jose R. Gonzalez is an intern for RealClearPolitics.


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