Iowa official slams Huntsman for avoiding caucuses

Politics • Former Utah guv shuns the Hawkeye State over his opposition to crop subsidies.
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Washington • Iowa's secretary of state slammed former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. on Monday for saying that he planned to skip Iowa's presidential caucuses should he run for the White House.

Secretary of State Matt Schultz, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also took a shot at Huntsman for distancing himself from his Mormon faith.

Huntsman, while traveling in New Hampshire, said he didn't plan to campaign in Iowa because of his position against crop subsidies, a sacred cow in the corn-producing state.

"I'm not competing in Iowa for a reason. I don't believe in subsidies that prop up corn, soybeans" and ethanol, Huntsman said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Huntsman charged that agricultural subsidies "distort the global marketplace" and lead to food inflation.

Schultz said Huntsman's excuse has as much credibility as "the dog ate my homework."

"It is apparent that Mr. Huntsman is in need of a lesson in Iowa politics," Schultz said in a post on the conservative site, "Iowa is a bellwether state. We care about our families, our faith and our freedom. We are not single-issue voters. We just want to know how presidential candidates are going to make our country better."

Schultz threw backhanded hits on Huntsman's past support for capping carbon emissions, his acceptance of federal stimulus money for Utah and for "distancing himself" from his LDS faith.

"Mr. Huntsman should know that Iowans elected me as their secretary of state and my Mormon faith was never an issue," Schultz said.

Huntsman's spokesman Tim Miller declined to comment on the secretary of state's post.

Schultz also pointed out that Iowa Rep. Steve King opposes ethanol subsidies and has been elected to Congress five times.

Utah is no stranger to farm subsidies itself. The state has received more than $369 million in subsidies — including nearly $31 million in corn subsidies alone — from 1995 through 2009, according to the Environmental Working Group, which tracks that data.

Under Huntsman's tenure as Utah governor, the state fleet also transitioned to flex-fuel vehicles that can run on regular gasoline or E85 ethanol. The move actually increased the state's fuel costs by some $200,000 a year because ethanol is more costly to produce and ship.

The Iowa caucuses have been critical in propping up ethanol and farm subsidies as presidential candidates who want to win the state vow to back them. The past three winners of the Iowa Republican caucuses — Mike Huckabee, George W. Bush and Sen. Bob Dole — campaigned as strongly pro-ethanol.