Indiana farmer Kip Tom didn’t dream up the possibility of a 2016 run for the U.S. House of Representatives on his own.
“I was encouraged by a number of members of Congress to seek out this role,” Tom said Tuesday afternoon, hours after announcing he is considering a campaign. He declined to identify specific members because he is in the exploratory stages of a possible bid.
If he decides to pursue office, Tom would seek election as a Republican to Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District, currently represented by outgoing Rep. Marlin Sutzman (R-Ind.).
The corn, soybean and seed corn producer says he will announce his decision in the next few weeks after meeting with prospective constituents. He wants to ensure he can do more good in office than as an influencer outside of it; he’s gathered a small team of people working on strategy and is in the process of meeting with others who could serve as long-term campaign partners.
Tom also will consult with members of his family, including his parents, sister and five children. Tom acknowledges elected office is “demanding of a person’s time” and requires a lot of commitment. It would also require him to leave Tom Farms, a business whose operations he has overseen day-to-day for the past 42 years.
“I’m not walking away,” Tom says. “I’ll still be at arm’s distance from any major decision.”
At the same time, Tom says, the farm’s team and leadership are equipped for such a transition. The operation is the seventh year of its succession-planning process, and it has capable staff and good leadership.
He says his top focus areas include:
- improving economic opportunities for all Hoosiers;
- more oversight on current and new regulations seeking balanced policy;
- a laser focus on improving the country’s transportation infrastructure;
- and improvement in current trade channels and opening new markets for trade while bolstering existing relationships.
Several key issues have Tom’s attention in agriculture and in other industries that call the 3rd District home. “What we need to do is try to shore that up and improve that along the way,” Tom says.
Among farmers in the 3rd District, key concerns include environmental issues such as the Environmental Protection Agencys Waters of the United States rule; high taxes that limit farm families’ ability to transition operations to the next generation; and policies related to farm programs and risk management, to name a few.
“The biggest thing is I need to listen first,” Tom explains. “Put aside all our preconceived notions and listen to the stakeholders that represent the different sectors and listen to the people.”
Inspiration And Upbringing. Contrary to popular opinion, there are many good leaders in politics today, Tom says. One he looks up to in particular is former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, now president of Purdue University.
Tom describes Daniels as someone with “clear thinking” and a common-sense approach to solving problems. One of Kip’s favorite quotes by Mitch Daniels is: “The failure of national economic policy is costing us more than jobs; it has begun to weaken that uniquely American spirit of risk-taking, large ambition and optimism about the future. We must rally them now to bold departures that rebuild our national morale as well as our material prosperity.”
Adds Tom: “I think sometimes the solution doesn’t have to be as complex as we make it. Mitch has got a really clear head in understanding how to implement solutions.”
If he decides to run and wins election, Tom says, he wants to ensure he participates on committees that are actively working and positively influencing U.S. policy.
“I want to make sure I’m engaged to the point where I’m trying to impact change along the way, whether it’s agriculture, whether it’s trade promotion authority, whether it’s environmental,” Tom says.
He recalls growing up in the 1950s on his seven-member family’s 250-acre farm, and he says he plans to stay true to those roots even if elected.
“I know as many things that don’t work as those that do work,” Tom jokes. “I think those experiences, combined with good parents, family and friends over that timeframe and from those humble beginnings, will allow me to serve well if I choose to seek candidacy.”