Former White House physician Ronny Jackson pledged Wednesday to keep pushing President Donald Trump's "America First" agenda after winning the GOP nomination for a Texas congressional seat over a cattle industry lobbyist who was backed by the Texas Farm Bureau and other state and national ag groups.
Jackson, who should have little trouble winning the general election in November, is one of two new likely representatives of districts that rank in the top 100 for agricultural production. Jackson (shown above with Trump in a campaign photo) said Trump's backing was a major factor in the race.
Texas’ heavily Republican 13th District, which ranges from the Panhandle to near Fort Worth, ranks seventh nationally. Jackson won the Tuesday runoff over Josh Winegarner 56% to 44%.
In Alabama’s 2nd District, which ranks 72nd, former state legislator Barry Moore defeated businessman Jeff Coleman by 60% to 40% in another runoff.
If they win in November, Moore and Jackson would join a new class of GOP members from top 100 ag districts that is also likely to include Randy Feenstra in Iowa’s 4th District (No. 2 in ag production); Mary Miller in Illinois’ 15th District (19th in ag production); Cliff Bentz in Oregon’s 2nd District (No. 39); and August Pfluger in Texas’ 11th District (No. 87).
Feenstra ousted Rep. Steve King in the GOP primary in June. Jackson, Moore, Miller and Pfluger would replace Republicans who are retiring.
On Tuesday, another race in an ag district was thrown into some question, but not because of voters. First-term Rep. Steve Watkins, R-Kan., was hit with three felony charges related to allegations of voter fraud.
Watkins won the eastern Kansas district (46th in ag production) by less than 1% of the vote in 2018. He faces two challengers in the Aug. 4 primary, including state Treasurer Jacob LaTurner.
The Texas 13 race put Trump in the unusual position of campaigning against a candidate favored by farm groups. It was one of a handful of races Tuesday that Trump got personally involved with, and Jackson was also aided by a super PAC, the Miles of Greatness Fund, and support from Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.
Trump got on a phone call with Jackson and his supporters on Monday evening ahead of the vote. Jackson wound up winning easily
Ag issues played a role in the race, too. Winegarner, an executive with the Amarillo-based Texas Cattle Feeders Association, came under fire for his opposition to mandatory country of origin labeling for beef and pork and for supporting the “phase one” trade deal with China and the North American Free Trade Agreement.
One Miles of Greatness TV ad accused Winegarner of “siding with Communist China for cushy trade deals” and called him “unpatriotic and un-American.” A separate mailing referred to Winegarner as “‘Wuhan’ Winegarner.”
Jackson told Fox News on Wednesday that he got into the race because he was “disgusted with what is going on in this country” and wanted to advance Trump’s “America First” agenda. “I believe in him and I believed in that agenda,” Jackson said.
Jackson got national attention for a separate remark during the interview that wearing face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic should be a matter of personal choice. "I don’t wear a mask all that often to be honest with you," he said.
Trump brought up Jackson’s win in talking to reporters at the White House on Wednesday, calling him both "Admiral Ronny” (Jackson was a Navy doctor) and "Doc Ronny.”
"We call him a lot of different things. But everybody agrees, they respect Ronny Jackson a lot,” Trump said.
Dee Vaughn, a former president of the National Corn Growers Association who farms north of Amarillo and backed Winegarner, conceded that Trump’s endorsement played a major role in the race.
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“Jackson used the endorsement as his main argument to vote for him, saying his rapport with the (president) will allow him to do/get things for the district. Whether that is correct will have to be seen,” Vaughn said.
Winegarner’s link to TCFA also may have hurt him with cattle producers who don’t believe that group or the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association have done “enough to create a competitive cattle market,” Vaughn said.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, is retiring from the seat.
Texas Republicans will no longer have a seat on the House Agriculture Committee after 2020 unless Jackson or Pfluger get on the panel. If elected, Pfluger would replace the committee’s senior Republican, Mike Conaway. The committee's only other Texan is Democrat Filemon Vela, who represents a district in the Rio Grande Valley.
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