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As Election Day nears, industry members sound off on who is best to lead America

When President Barack Obama ran for president four years ago, an informal and unscientific poll of the industry seemed to show that he had significant support in the fresh produce industry. Four years later, the same can be said.

About one month before the 2008 election, The Produce News (and this reporter) was able to get 14 people from throughout the industry to weigh in on the race. Six backed McCain, five backed Obama, two were undecided at that juncture and one declined to state a preference but made a comment. Many others declined to participate. This year’s tally isn’t much different.

(Though the company affiliation of each participant is listed for identification purposes, these comments were solicited from individuals and are not intended to represent anything different than that.)

Gary Clevenger

Managing partner, Freska Produce International, Oxnard, CA

“I have been a Republican for most of my life, and that is how I plan to vote this time. I just don’t think President Obama has done much for the produce industry, so I am leaning toward Romney and would like to give him a chance. I know Obama would like to have eight years to get it done, but wouldn’t we all like to have eight years to get it done. You don’t always get what you want. I don’t think he has done much for small business and we need more things done to pump up the economy. We need to get the economy moving again and I’d like to give Romney his chance. Maybe a more savvy business person in charge will make the difference.”

Larry Kampa

Owner, LRK|SB Marketing Group LLC, Santa Barbara, CA

“So where do I start?

1. Tax plan that will help the 5 percent at the expense of the other 48 percent (that doesn’t count the 47 percent that he doesn’t care about).

2. A health plan that has no provisions for those who don’t have health care now and the pre-existing conditions that will keep them from getting it.

3. Foreign policy experience — nil.

4. The attack on women’s reproductive rights.

5. The debt he will owe the Christian fundamental right that he will need to get elected.

6. More Republican economic policies. The kind that helped 25 percent of Americans lose their homes when it gave banks and lenders carte blanche to make their own rules; allow multi-nationals to move jobs out of the U.S. and gave up tax breaks to do so; drag us into this ridiculous war on terrorism that created an uncontrolled, huge new drain on the economy (TSA).

I could keep going for an hour. I didn’t vote for Obama the first time around, and I don’t know what I will do with my vote this time, but it will definitely not be cast for Romney.”

Patty Knoll

Sales manager, Temkin International, Diamond Bar, CA

“I am in full support of the Romney-Ryan ticket. We need a business person to run the country. Not someone like Obama who has not fulfilled his promises over the last four years. Unemployment has gone up during his term. And to boot, he has approved giving money to companies that have gone belly up since he has been elected. And now we have another company that is being investigated for embezzlement. That just goes to show whose pockets are being lined.”

Carissa Mace

President, Fresh Produce & Floral Council, La Mirada, CA

(Participated in 2008 and was undecided with a month to go.)

“I was undecided a month out in 2008. I ended up voting for Obama for the basic reason that I couldn’t fathom Sarah Palin as the vice president. This year I’m voting for Romney. I want to see what can come of a successful businessman in the position.”

Rob Bryant

Western Editorial, Huntington Beach, CA

(Participated in 2008 and supported Barack Obama)

“I think we gave ‘W’ (George W. Bush) too much time and Obama not enough yet. We could tell the direction the former administration was heading in 2004, which was downward, yet we gave him another term to get it right. Obama appears to be heading in the right direction, although not fast enough for many. Let’s go with momentum rather than superlative, fatuous promises from the GOP ticket.”

Elizabeth Pivonka

President, Produce for Better Health Foundation, Hockessin, DE

(Participated in 2008 poll and backed Sen. McCain)

“I like Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ initiative and hope that a Romney presidency would continue with some of the good things that have been started there. Other than that, I’m 100 percent Romney. In fact, I don’t think there’s been a more qualified person running for president in my lifetime.”

Richard Ruiz

President, Ruiz Sales Inc., Edinburg, TX

“I am supporting Mitt Romney. More than ever before as a grandpa and a father and a businessman, I believe our security and the security of our country and our freedom is the most important thing. We need to be very careful who is in charge the next four years and Mitt Romney is a strong leader who knows what it is to be committed to family values. He also has strong business values. America needs to be once again the leader of the world. It is our role to be a big brother to the world, and I think Romney is the only person who can help us with that. He is solid.

I also think this election is very important for our produce industry. Every time we sell a product, we should be thinking of our mothers and our children and not only give them top quality but give them a product that is safe as well. The Food & Drug Administration has not done its job. We need someone who is going to not only write the laws but also make sure they are enforced. We need to be responsible as an industry but we also need make government responsible in the food-safety arena.”

Douglas Schaefer

President, E.J.’s Produce Sales Inc., Phoenix

“I am for the person that will fix our immigration issue. I’m not kidding. That’s the biggest problem we have in our industry and the person that will fix that problem will get my vote.”

Dick Spezzano

Spezzano Consulting, Montrose, CA

(Participated in 2008 and was undecided one month before the election.)

“Yes, I am again undecided.”

Tom Tjerandsen

Managing director-North America, Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, Sonoma, CA

(Participated in 2008 and supported President Obama)

“Still in Obama’s camp. Romney and his party are way too far to the right of the mainstream in our country to govern effectively (assuming his amorphous rhetoric is believable). Besides, I’ve always felt a certain kinship with Big Bird.”

Brian Vandervoet

Vandervoet & Associates Inc., Nogales, AZ

(Participated in 2008 with support for Obama)

“I continue to support President Obama.”

Bill Vogel

President, Vision Produce Co., Los Angeles

“I wish I were in Nebraska so I could vote for the Democratic (senatorial) candidate Bob Kerry, along with the rest of the national Democratic ticket. He is talking about working with Republicans, even very conservative ones like Tom Coburn from Oklahoma, because he has a good plan to deal with the deficit in a reasonable manner. Kerry is very bothered by the fact that all the Republicans have their hands tied by the Grover Norquist pledge, and he wants to support those Republicans who have the guts to stand up to their party. Kerry will be an asset to the cause to get Washington out of stalemate.

I think the Democrats have handled the problems well over the past four years given all the circumstances, including a stubborn Republican ‘Norquist’ contingent. I continue to support Obama and the Democratic goals. And, I just don’t understand why ‘flip-flop’ has not been resurrected to describe the Romney positions — so to me there is not the substance to support a Republican vote.”