The Candidates and Rural Policy: A Quick Guide

Here’s a roundup of the candidates’ positions on rural policy and a sampling of their statements about rural.

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UPDATES: This story has been updated to include Marianne Williamson, who was inadvertently omitted from earlier versions. We’re sorry for that error. John Hickenlooper and Jay Inslee have withdrawn from the race. Pete Buttigieg released a comprehensive rural policy platforms, which is now included in the table.

Eight of 20 Democratic presidential candidates have released comprehensive rural policy plans, and another six have included rural initiatives in other major policy documents, a Daily Yonder review of press reports and candidate websites reveals.

Only one candidate (New York Mayor Bill Deblasio) has been entirely mum on rural, according to our research. The other candidates have at least mentioned rural America on the hustings or in candidate debates. And most have created full rural plans or included rural implications in policy documents on topics such as economic development, healthcare, and conservation.

Candidates with comprehensive rural-policy platforms are former Vice President Joe Biden; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Ohio U.S. Representative John Delaney; New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand; Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper; Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar; Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Below is a table of rural statements and documents from the 20 candidates who qualified for the second round of Democratic primary debates. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order. We’ll update this document as the campaign progresses. If you see errors or omissions, please let us know (tim@dailyyonder.com).

Michael Bennett, U. S. Senator (D-CO)

The Candidate’s Words:No significant articulation of rural issues or policies was found, though Bennett does sometimes discuss working with parts of rural Colorado as Senator and Governor.
Statement on Rural America:No comprehensive rural platform, though rural policy ideas are mentioned in health care, infrastructure and climate policies.
Rural Issues Highlighted:Rural Infrastructure, Rural Health Care
Campaign Site:https://michaelbennet.com/

 

Joe Biden, former Vice President, former Senator (D-DE)

The Candidate’s Words:“As president, Biden will build a pathway to the middle class for rural Americans, in rural America. He will pursue a rural economic development strategy that partners with rural communities to invest in their unique assets, with the goal of giving young people more options to live, work, and raise the next generation in rural America. It’s not just good for those in rural America, it’s good for everyone across our country.”

–Campaign Literature, “The Biden Plan for Rural America.”

Statement on Rural America:Comprehensive rural platform unveiled through campaign tour of rural Iowa. Rural policy details available at https://joebiden.com/rural/
Rural Issues Highlighted:Trade Reform, Rural Economic Development, Rural Health Care, Agriculture Reform, Climate Change.
Campaign Site:https://joebiden.com/

 

Cory Booker, U. S. Senator (D-NJ)

The Candidate’s Words:“In FDR’s New Deal, the federal government planted billions of trees, provided conservation incentives to family farmers and ranchers, created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Civilian Conservation Corps, and electrified rural America. In order to address the urgent and existential threat posed by climate change, all of these approaches should be part of our broader strategy. In addition to transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy, another essential step that we must take is to increase the carbon sequestration in our soils, forests, and wetlands.”

Statement on Climate Stewardship Act, August 2019

Statement on Rural America:No comprehensive rural platform, but Senator Booker mentions rural policy in his Economic Opportunity and Climate Change proposals. Senator Booker also has supported expanding conservation investments in agriculture and ecosystems.
Rural Issues Highlighted:Rural Conservation, Climate Change.
Campaign Site:https://corybooker.com/

 

Steve Bullock, Governor (D-MT)

The Candidate’s Words:“I come from a state where a lot of people voted for Donald Trump. Let’s not kid ourselves. He will be hard to beat…Look, I’m a pro-choice, pro-union, populist Democrat who won three elections in a red state. Not by compromising our values, but by getting stuff done. That’s how we win back the places we lost: showing up, listening, focusing on the challenges of everyday Americans.”

Democratic Debate, July 2019

Statement on Rural America:No comprehensive rural platform, but Governor Bullock regularly discusses rural issues during campaign events and comments. Rural policy proposals are embedded in his Economic Opportunity plans.
Rural Issues Highlighted:Fair Trade, Rural Economic Development, Rural Infrastructure.
Campaign Site:https://stevebullock.com/

 

Pete Buttigieg, Mayor, South Bend, IN

The Candidate’s Words:“Rural communities help sustain our country and propel our economy. Yet rural Americans are getting sicker and dying younger than people living in cities. That is wrong. Not just because where you live shouldn’t dictate how long you live, but because when we fail one part of our country, we fail our whole country.

Securing a Healthy Future for Rural America policy document

Statement on Rural America:Mayor Buttigieg has a rural policy platform (https://peteforamerica.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/PFA_Unleashing-the-Potential-of-Rural-America.pdf) and a rural healthcare policy initiative (https://peteforamerica.com/rural-health). Rural elements are also included in policies on community service, national security, and community development. He mentions rural small towns, farmers and rural issues on the campaign trail.
Rural Issues Highlighted:Health, Infrastructure, Veterans, Community Service.
Campaign Site:https://peteforamerica.com/

 

Julian Castro, Former Secretary, Housing and Urban Development 

The Candidate’s Words:No significant articulation of rural issues or policies was found.
Statement on Rural America:No comprehensive rural platform, but Secretary Castro does frequently discuss immigration and indigenous people in the context of rural issues.
Rural Issues Highlighted:Fair Trade, Immigration, Climate.
Campaign Site:https://www.julianforthefuture.com/

 

Bill DeBlasio, Mayor, New York, NY

The Candidate’s Words:No significant articulation of rural issues or policies was found.
Statement on Rural America:No comprehensive rural platform or rural policy ideas mentioned.
Rural Issues Highlighted:N/A
Campaign Site:https://billdeblasio.com/

 

John Delaney, Former U. S. Representative (D-MD)

The Candidate’s Words:“We have to put policies in place so a kid doesn’t have to move to a big city in order to have a chance for a good job. We need a country where it’s equally likely that a city kid moves to rural America for a job as vice versa.”

–Candidate Website, “Heartland Fair Deal.”

Statement on Rural America:Delaney has a comprehensive rural platform and regularly discusses rural issues during campaign events and comments. Has rural policy proposals embedded in his Agriculture, Environment and Economic Opportunity platforms.
Rural Issues Highlighted:Rural Health Care, Rural Economic Development, Rural Manufacturing, Agriculture Reform, International Trade.
Campaign Site:https://www.johndelaney.com/

 

Tulsi Gabbard, U. S. Representative (D-HI)

The Candidate’s Words:No significant articulation of rural issues or policies was found.
Statement on Rural America:No comprehensive rural platform or rural policy ideas mentioned. Participated in rural voter event in Iowa.
Rural Issues Highlighted:N/A
Campaign Site:https://www.tulsi2020.com/

 

Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator (D-NY)
WITHDRAWN


The Candidate’s Words:“A bright future for the nation depends on the health and prosperity of rural America. . . .Like all Americans, rural Americans want a fair shot to earn a good life and contribute to the progress of our nation. But our broken economy and broken government have left talent on the sidelines as rural America has suffered a series of crippling losses for decades. And too many politicians have turned a blind eye or made empty promises to uplift rural Americans, only to leave them behind and make their lives harder once in office. . . .But, here’s the thing to know about rural Americans: they’re not giving up. And this nation can’t give up on them. Instead we must treat rural America like the national asset it is.”

–Campaign Literature, “Rebuilding Rural America For Our Future.”

Statement on Rural America:Comprehensive rural platform. Rural policy details available at https://medium.com/team-gillibrand/rebuilding-rural-america-for-our-future-1f88697538b9
Rural Issues Highlighted:Rural Economic Development, Inequality, Rural Infrastructure, Rural Investment, Rural Health Care, Agriculture Reform, Climate Change.
Campaign Site:https://kirstengillibrand.com/

 

Kamala Harris, Senator (D-CA)

The Candidate’s Words:No significant articulation of rural issues or policies was found.
Statement on Rural America:No comprehensive rural platform. Has mentioned farmers and rural racial disparities during the campaign.
Rural Issues Highlighted:Rural Health Care, Rural Economic Development.
Campaign Site:https://kamalaharris.org/

 

John Hickenlooper, Governor (D-CO)
WITHDREW AUGUST 15

The Candidate’s Words:“Our rural communities are at the forefront of some of our nation’s greatest challenges and opportunities.  President Hickenlooper would be a champion for our rural communities to improve access to healthcare, strengthen investment in infrastructure and human capital, bring focus to the one-fourth of our children who go to schools in rural areas or small towns, and restore a national policy that protects rather than compromises our natural environment.

–Campaign Materials

Statement on Rural America:Hickenlooper has a comprehensive rural platform and regularly discusses rural issues during campaign events and comments. Hickenlooper’s rural plan is available at: https://www.hickenlooper.com/rural-economy/
Rural Issues Highlighted:Rural Broadband, Fair Trade, Rural Economic Development, Agriculture Reform, Climate Change.
Campaign Site:https://www.hickenlooper.com/

 

Jay Inslee, Governor (D-WA)
WITHDREW AUGUST 22

The Candidate’s Words:“During the New Deal, visionary policies fueled rapid expansion of rural economic development through the Rural Development Administration in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The New Deal assured sustained federal financing for modern infrastructure in communities that had been passed over by private industry due to the relatively high cost of serving users in rural areas. Today many of these same programs still exist within the federal government, and we can rely on them once again to ensure that vibrant rural economies thrive in a new clean energy revolution. . . .In this way, the same tools that originally enabled electrification to span from coast to coast can once again bring modern, clean, smart and affordable energy and communications infrastructure to thriving rural communities.”

–Campaign Materials, “Next Generation Rural Electrification”

Statement on Rural America:Comprehensive rural platform released August 21, 2019.https://www.jayinslee.com/issues/growing-rural-prosperity

Inslee also has rural components in his “Evergreen Economy” proposals, which address greenhouse gas emissions and job growth.  https://jayinslee.com/issues/evergreen-economy

Rural Issues Highlighted:Rural Economic Development, Agriculture Reform, Conservation of Public Lands, Climate Change.
Campaign Site:https://jayinslee.com/

 

Amy Klobuchar, Senator (D-MN)

The Candidate’s Words:“I come at this with a simple premise: Kids that grow up in rural America should be able to live in rural America. That’s a good way to begin how we think about all of this….”

“I think one of the things we have to bring back to our whole country is respect for rural America.”

–Kicking off campaign swing through rural Iowa, “Amy Klobuchar launches Iowa swing with ‘heartland’ revitalization proposal.”

Statement on Rural America:Comprehensive rural platform unveiled through campaign tour of rural Iowa. Rural policy details available at https://medium.com/@AmyforAmerica/senator-klobuchars-plan-from-the-heartland-strengthening-our-agricultural-and-rural-communities-405cb6b3234d
Rural Issues Highlighted:Rural Infrastructure, Rural Broadband, Rural Economic Development, Rural Health Care, Expand Existing Approach to Agriculture, Climate Change, Trade Reform.
Campaign Site:https://amyklobuchar.com/

 

Beto O’Rourke, Former U. S. Representative (D-TX)

The Candidate’s Words:“This is only the most recent example of an administration that has ignored the interests of rural America. Longstanding inaction and indifference have left their communities with shuttered hospitalsunderfunded schools and decaying highways, bridges, and railways. And as the President’s more than $2 trillion tax cut helped corporations and the wealthiest Americans race forward, far too many more have been left behind. . . .Those living in rural America aren’t looking for handouts. They don’t want anyone’s pity. They want a partner who will empower them, invest in them and allow them to make a profit.”

Op-ed, CNN, May 2019

Statement on Rural America:No comprehensive rural platform, but Representative O’Rourke regularly discusses rural issues during campaign events and comments. Has rural policy proposals embedded in his Climate Plan.
Rural Issues Highlighted:Fair Trade, Rural Economic Development, Climate Change
Campaign Site:https://betoorourke.com/

 

Tim Ryan, U. S. Representative (D-OH)

The Candidate’s Words:“We’ve not done anywhere close to what we need to do for rural America. I think we need an absolute, aggressive campaign in rural America, because I think we can win those voters back. When you look at the last time we had major economic problems, deep, deep, deep structural economic problems, [it] was during the Great Depression. Who was part of that Democratic coalition? Rural America. . . .That’s when we really made these big reforms with the New Deal. So if you want a Green New Deal, it’s gotta be in coalition with and collaboration with rural America.”

Interview with Rolling Stone.

Statement on Rural America:No comprehensive rural platform, but Representative Ryan regularly discusses rural issues during campaign events and comments. Has rural policy proposals embedded in his Agriculture, Environment and Economic Opportunity platforms.
Rural Issues Highlighted:Agriculture Policy Reform, Fair Trade, Rural Economic Development.
Campaign Site:https://timryanforamerica.com/

 

Bernie Sanders, Senator (I-VT)

The Candidate’s Words:“Fundamental change in America’s agricultural and rural policies is no longer just an option; it’s an absolute necessity. Farmers, foresters, and ranchers steward rural landscapes, which benefit all Americans. They provide us with essential resources such as food, fiber, building materials, renewable energy, clean water, and habitat for biodiversity. They also have an enormous potential to address climate change. With the right support and policies, we can have rural communities that are thriving economically and ecologically.”

–Campaign Website, “Revitalizing Rural America.”

Statement on Rural America:Comprehensive rural platform unveiled through campaign tour of rural Iowa. Rural policy details available at: https://berniesanders.com/issues/revitalizing-rural-america/
Rural Issues Highlighted:Corporate Power, Farm Economy, Fair Trade, Wealth Inequality, Rural Infrastructure, Rural Broadband, Rural Economic Development, Rural Health Care, Climate Change.
Campaign Site:https://berniesanders.com/

 

Elizabeth Warren, Senator (D-MA)

The Candidate’s Words:“A strong America requires a strong rural America. . . . But both corporate America and leaders in Washington have turned their backs on the people living in our rural communities and prioritized the interests of giant companies and Wall Street instead. . . .Our failure to invest in rural areas is holding back millions of families, weakening our economy, and undermining our efforts to combat climate change. It’s time to fix this.”

–Campaign Website, “My Plan for Rural America.”

Statement on Rural America:Comprehensive rural platform on both rural economic development and agriculture. Rural policy details available at: https://medium.com/@teamwarren/my-plan-to-invest-in-rural-america-94e3a80d88aa
Rural Issues Highlighted:Antitrust, Farm Economy, Fair Trade, Wealth Inequality, Rural Infrastructure, Rural Broadband, Rural Economic Development, Rural Housing, Rural Health Care, Climate Change.
Campaign Site:https://elizabethwarren.com/

 

Marianne Williamson, Author and Lecturer

On Prioritizing Rural Issues:“A Williamson administration will support local, small family farmers and ranchers far more than we currently do. They have been especially hard hit by the current administration’s trade policies, as well as by the impacts of climate change. My presidency will support regenerative, sustainable agricultural practices that not only have highly profitable yields, but can also help turn the tide on climate change.”
Rural Platform:No comprehensive rural platform, but Williamson focuses on some rural issues related to food, corporate power and climate change.  Policy details available at https://www.marianne2020.com/issues
Rural Issues Highlighted:Food, Climate Change.
Campaign Site:https://www.marianne2020.com

 

Andrew Yang, Entrepreneur

The Candidate’s Words:No significant articulation of rural issues or policies was found.
Statement on Rural America:No comprehensive rural platform, but Mr. Yang does frequently discuss his economic policies in the context of rural job losses due to automation.
Rural Issues Highlighted:Fair Trade, Rural Economic Development, Climate Change.
Campaign Site:https://www.yang2020.com/

 

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