MARION — Dan Zumbach has harvested 40 crops, and he successfully rebuilt his farm operation after a fire and a tornado, so he’s feeling pretty good about his odds of surviving the five-way race for the GOP nomination for Iowa secretary of agriculture.
“Our campaign is working to win outright Tuesday” rather than see the nomination decided by delegates to the Republican state convention in mid-June, the Delaware County farmer and three-term state senator said Thursday at a campaign stop in Marion.
“We’re feeling really good,” he said. “We’ve made over 30,000 voter contacts and feel we’re in a great position to win this. We’re pushing every day to secure another vote, secure another vote, secure another vote.”
In Tuesday’s Republican primary, Zumbach, 58, faces Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, who was appointed to serve the remainder of Bill Northey’s term; Chad Ingels, a farmer and a watershed specialist from Randalia; Ray Gaesser, a Corning farmer and former president of the American Soybean Association; and Craig Lang of Brooklyn, former president of the Iowa Farm Bureau and state Board of Regents.
The winner of the Republican primary will face Tim Gannon of Des Moines, who has served in various positions in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
As ag secretary, Zumbach said, he will be a “non-stop advocate for Iowa agriculture and food security.”
As the face of Iowa agriculture, he said, his mission will be to “let people we are going to produce great food, we’re going to do it the right way, we’re going to care about the environment, care about the food and care about the people of Iowa.”
Zumbach is emphasizing his legislative experience as an advantage he has over his rivals.
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“If I didn’t have the last six years of legislative experience I wouldn’t have run. I wouldn’t feel qualified,” Zumbach said.
The experience he has gained working with other legislators, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the governor’s office and federal officials gives him a “huge edge,” he said.
“I have those relationships already,” Zumbach said. “So when it comes time to run the department, I already know that I can go to (legislators) and talk about where we need to be with funding, which policies I want them to push. We already know we can work together.”
Those relationships extend to U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, with whom he served two years in the Iowa Senate.
“We have built a really good working and professional relationship,” he said and talk nearly every week about what’s going on in Iowa agriculture and the Senate. During recent discussions about agriculture and trade policy, he said, they talked “nearly daily.”
Although former Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey endorsed Naig, Zumbach had nothing but praise for Northey.
“I’m going to take off where Bill Northey left off,” he said. “Am I proud of Bill Northey? Yes, sir. Did I learn from Bill Northey? Yes, I did. Do I want to take my experiences and advance from that point? Yes, I will.”
In addition to his experience in the Legislature, Zumbach served on the school board at West Delaware High School in Manchester — his alma mater — has been a 4-H leader and high school wrestling referee. He and his wife, Michelle, live in Ryan and have four children.
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