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Election Day 2014: Considerations for the Natural Products Industry

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by James Gormley -

Today, every member of the U.S. House of Representatives is up for re-election, and there are critically important U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, too.

Of the 10 states that are in play in terms of the Senate, Republicans need to gain six states in order to assume a majority.

Since eight of the 10 states have races whose polling numbers are close enough to be within a margin of error, all polls must be taken with a grain of salt.

It’s a Party

People new to the industry sometimes presuppose that the party sometimes associated with liberal social movements (the Democratic party) would embrace everything from Ayurvedic panchakarma treatments to hemp butter to dietary supplements, but that is not necessarily the case, as a number of leading critics of the natural products industry have come from the “D” side of the aisle.

The Republican party has generated an array of powerful pro-supplement advocates, champions who have consistently fought on behalf of consumers and the dietary supplement marketplace.

That being said, some of our biggest past and present boosters have come from the Democratic camp, including Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wisconsin), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

“It’s not so much about the party; it’s about the issues,” said Dr. Daniel Fabricant, executive director and CEO of the Natural Products Association (NPA). “I think everybody in this town knows that to get things done, you need to work on both sides of the aisle.

“If you’re in this industry, you’re in politics.”

Hot Races

Natural industry wonks are looking closely at races in states with retiring legislators, such as Sen. Harkin (Iowa), Rep. John Dingell (D-Michigan), Rep. Henry Waxman (D-California), and Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah).

Of interest, State Senator Ted Lieu (D-California) is running for Rep. Waxman’s seat. “Ted Lieu has been very supportive,” noted Mike Greene, vice president of government relations for the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN).

“We’re very closely watching this race, and we’re looking forward to speaking with him when he gets to Congress.”

Other battleground races important for industry are for or against the following seats: Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC).

In fact, as far as Sen. Harkin’s seat in Iowa is concerned, Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) is hoped by many to win it, especially in light of Braley’s work on the Dietary Supplement Caucus.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen: Lend Me Your Votes

“Both friends and foes are leaving; that leaves a vacuum of opportunity,” added Greene.

Not only are tried and true advocates being courted by the natural industry, but legislators who support a specific piece of legislation, called situational champions, are attracting attention. “Situational champions are becoming very interested in our industry and our products,” Greene pointed out.

In the meantime, spending for these mid-term elections is at an all-time high—$3.6 billion as of last week—which is not tracking with expected turn-out, which is (unfortunately) projected to be even lower than predicted.

Any guidance as to whom the industry should back, going forward? 

“We need to look at folk who embody some of what Hatch and Harkin embody, the ability to effectively legislate and stick to their guns,” concluded Fabricant.
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