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Larkin: Independent Grocers Are Vitally Important To Political Process

Peter Larkin Park City Group
Peter Larkin

by Peter Larkin/ president and CEO, National Grocers Association
Special to The Shelby Report

The 2018 midterm elections are quickly approaching, as observed by all the political ads that currently pepper our airwaves, and much is on the line for both political parties. A look at historical data on congressional elections suggests that Democrats will have an advantage heading into the midterms, which often serve as a referendum on the sitting president. Since 1862, the president’s party has lost on average 32 seats in the House and more than two in the Senate in midterm elections. The only midterm elections to defy this pattern were held in 1934, in the midst of the Great Depression, and in 2002, roughly a year after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The U.S. Senate has 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats (which includes the two independents who caucus with the Democrats). There are 35 Senate seats up for re-election this year, with 26 of those seats held by Democrats. Every member of the House is up for re-election, with Republicans holding 237 seats and Democrats with 193 seats (and five vacancies at the time of this writing).

While many Democrats feel as if a “blue wave” is coming, given the enthusiasm among their base and high turnout in special elections, taking control of the Senate will be an uphill battle due to an unfavorable map for the Democrats. They will need to win two seats to take control, but of those 26 seats they’ll need to defend, 10 are in states that Trump won in the 2016 presidential race.

The prospect of taking control of the House is much brighter for Democrats as they need a net of 23 seats. Most election analysts give Democrats anywhere from a 60 to 75 percent chance of taking over the House. However, there still is much fluidity in these predictions, and we will see what kind of political atmosphere awaits us at the end of October and into November.

With that said, it is even more vital that independent grocers get involved in the political process and share with our representatives and candidates vying to fill that role how laws directly impact your businesses, employees and the communities you serve.

Independent grocers have a comparative advantage in making their voices heard, because by and large, independent supermarket operators are family-owned, private enterprises with deep local roots. They are important—very important—constituents for elected officials, not only as major employers and economic drivers, but also as bellwethers of economic, political and demographic trends affecting households, families and, of course, voters.

Also, independents’ stores are staples in communities across the country and have an enormous economic impact on local, state and national economies. The independent grocery industry has a huge impact on America’s economy, with $131 billion in sales, nearly one million jobs and $30 billion in wages.

There are a number of ways to get involved in the political process. The first step is registering to vote. Every state except North Dakota requires you to register to vote, and many states have registration deadlines prior to the election. You can find more information on how to register at vote.gov. Other ways to make your voice heard include hosting a store tour with your member of Congress to help them better understand the important role grocers play in their communities; or contact your representative’s office via mail or phone to let them know where you stand on critical issues.  NGA works to make these activities as turnkey and simple as possible. You can find more information on how to get engaged at nationalgrocers.org/government-relations.

While there are various advocacy and political tactics you can utilize, it is all a part of a process of making sure that the voice of the independent grocer—your voice—gets heard where and when it most counts.


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