Presidential candidate Nikki Haley speaks with a voter following her event at Cemen Tech in Indianola on Sept. 16, 2023. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley launched a new coalition in Des Moines Tuesday, with endorsements from Iowa agricultural leaders as she seeks to raise her profile in the first-in-the-nation state.
“Farmers for Nikki” is a coalition that plans to focus on rallying farmers and rural Iowans to caucus for Haley in the 2024 Iowa Republican caucuses. The group is headed by Ray Gaesser, former president of the American Soybean Association and Iowa Soybean Association, alongside four co-chairs with experience in farming and agricultural industries.
In a Tuesday news release, Gaesser said that Haley has “proven herself” to be a capable leader and ally to Iowa’s agricultural industries through her experience as a former ambassador to the United Nations, and as South Carolina governor.
“I’m tired of the turmoil, egos, and name calling,” Gaesser said in a statement. “I want a president and leader who shows strength, balance, and respect. She grew up in a farming community in South Carolina, and understands and supports farmers. I wholeheartedly endorse Nikki for president, and am honored to chair Farmers for Nikki.”
The other members of the leadership team are Iowa Rep. Austin Harris, R-Moulton, Mary Boote, CEO of the Global Farmer Network, former President of Siouxland Energy Cooperative Kelly Nieuwenhuis and Chris Wehrman, former CEO of the National Corn Growers Association.
Haley has spoken in support of Iowa’s agricultural communities at caucus events, saying “food security is national security” and calling for a president who will do more to support Iowa farmers in trade deals with China and supporting ethanol through federal renewable fuel standards. She said the U.S. must seek “energy independence” through increased oil and ethanol production domestically.
The South Carolina Republican has also campaigned for blocking Chinese state-affiliated companies from owning U.S. land.
Billy Mackey, Haley’s Iowa campaign director, said the presidential candidate grew up in a rural town “where faith, family, and farming were always top of mind.”
“Here in Iowa, we’re seeing Communist China infiltrate our agriculture industries and no one is better suited to combat that threat than Nikki Haley. She knows that Iowa farmers feed and fuel the world and will always have their backs.”
The announcement comes a day one of Haley’s rivals, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, won the endorsement of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Haley and DeSantis have sparred through Iowa campaign ads over Chinese businesses owning American land. DeSantis’ supporting PAC released videos criticizing Haley and local South Carolina officials for offering 250 acres of free land, tax credits and rebates to a Chinese state-owned fiberglass manufacturing company while she served as governor in 2016.
In an October event in Iowa, Haley said many governors — including DeSantis — have recruited Chinese companies to establish businesses in their state.
“Yes, we recruited fiberglass companies,” Haley said in Cedar Rapids. “Yes, we recruited other companies. And that’s what we did to bring jobs. Every governor in this country has done the same thing, just like every one of you has Chinese products in your home. The difference is now, we know exactly what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and what we need to do to stop it.”
Haley and DeSantis were tied with 16% of likely Republican caucusgoers who listed them as their first choice candidate in the October Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll. Former President Donald Trump leads the race with 43%.
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