Farm Roots Lead Sullivan into Race for Congress


With deep roots in the Nebraska soil, a political newcomer sets his sights on Washington, where Mark Sullivan says family farmers and small businesses would be his priorities.

Sullivan says Washington's broken, and needs voices like his to fix it.

"Break up the gridlock and extreme partisanship and poison atmosphere both in Congress and national media," he said.

The fact a political unknown can challenge a sitting congressman gives Sullivan faith, even if he's opening himself to criticism.

He said, "It's not a real comfortable deal for me – I started in politics March First."

His neighbors may have wondered what he was getting into, but Sullivan says they're the ones he wants to go to Washington for.

"Social Security, Medicare, family farms, small family businesses – those are the keystones," he said.

Especially agriculture. Sullivan won't attack Congressman Adrian Smith, but even some Republicans have been critical of Smith for congress' failure to pass a farm bill.

"It had plenty of changes to move forward. Basically House of Representatives leadership didn't move it out of committee," Sullivan explained.

At the time, Smith said the bill was "doomed for failure" and forcing a vote would have been a setback. He hopes to get the bill passed in the session after the election.

In a written statement from Smith, he said, "passing a Farm Bill and preventing any lapse in federal farm policy is one of my highest priorities. However, I don't believe signing a petition to discharge a bill destined for defeat is in the best interest of producers, nor should be used to litmus test support of agriculture. I am not alone in this view. Farm state Representatives from both sides of the aisle acknowledge a bill forced to the House floor doomed for failure would set us back even further."

Sullivan's a Democrat and cites the late George McGovern and Dr. Martin Luther King as heroes, but Republicans too, including Sen. Dick Lugar.

And while Nebraska's a conservative state, he says people are independent thinkers.

"I would represent the Third District first, state of Nebraska second, and national party way down the list. I've been around here too long to get worried about political labels."

His travels across the expansive Third District have encouraged him, along with support of his family.

His father, a World War II veteran was surprised, but supportive when he announced his run.

"Dad pulled up in the pickup. I said, 'Well Dad, I decided to file against Congressman Smith.' He looked at me and said, 'Good, give him hell.'"

Sullivan's running the kind of campaign where he pulls out the checkbook to pay for TV ads and yard signs on his own.

But says Congress needs more folks like him.