WASHINGTON -- The promise of four more years of pro-business legislation left industry leaders satisfied with last week's national election, although some expressed concern over government spending, the war in Iraq and other issues.
Retailers contacted by SN last week said they thought the re-election of President Bush and the addition of four Republican seats each in the House and Senate would be favorable for the industry on issues like country-of-origin labeling, the estate tax, minimum wage, health care and taxes.
"I think the election broke the right way for our industry," said Steve Smith, president and chief executive officer, K-VA-T Food Stores, Abingdon, Va. "The administration is pro-business, and I think the additional senatorial seats will help our industry as much as the presidency."
For smaller retailers especially, the possibility that the estate tax could be permanently repealed is especially encouraging.
"The president's support for repealing the 'death tax' means a lot to over half the members of Food Marketing Institute who operate three stores or fewer," said Jack Brown, chairman, president and CEO, Stater Bros. Markets, Colton, Calif.
Ron Johnson, managing partner, president and CEO of Minyard Group, the investment group that acquired Minyard Food Stores, Coppell, Texas, said he was happy for Bush "because I truly believe these are very dangerous times we live in, and I believe he is the person best suited to protect this country, myself and my family over the next four years."
Johnson and others expressed optimism that the economy would continue to improve.
"Bush is good for the economy in general," said Joe Azzolina Sr., president, Food Circus Supermarkets, Middletown, N.J., who also is a Republican New Jersey state assemblyman. "Tax policies that the president has instituted have worked to create jobs and the growth of small businesses like ours."
Jay Campbell, president, Associated Grocers of Baton Rouge, La., said the election had an "excellent outcome for consistency of economic and taxation policy," although he added that the federal government needed to exercise restraint in federal spending.
Tim Hammonds, president and CEO, FMI, Washington, said Bush's re-election should help grocers in their wish list of congressional action. In general, Hammonds said he's glad to have a second-term president because their policies are less hampered by the specter of having to run for re-election.
"Now we have a chance to see what the president will do in sorting out his priorities," Hammonds said. "Having a larger [GOP] majority, particularly in the Senate, will help move his agenda along."
Justo Frias, president, Gigante Holdings International, Anaheim, Calif., said Bush's re-election is good for the U.S. because of the ongoing war in Iraq, based on his own experiences in the region.
"I don't necessarily agree with being there, but once the decision to go to war was made, the U.S. has to stay the course," he said.
Some industry leaders, however, noted that the country was still split in the support for the administration.
"Bush should not read this as a great mandate because half the country is opposed to his views," said Neil Golub, president and chief executive officer, Price Chopper, Schenectady, N.Y. "I don't accept a number of views from either side or either party. I think stem cell research is important." He said he also supports repeal of the estate tax. John Catsimatidis, chairman, president and CEO, Red Apple Cos., New York, said he stands behind the president, although he said he would like to see Bush bring some fresh talent into the administration. "I would hope Bush picks better people in the second term," he said.
Barry Scher, vice president of public affairs, Giant, Landover, Md., who also is chairman of FMI's government relations committee, said Bush's win "was a clear victory for the food industry," but he said a lot will depend on the degree of cooperation between the Republicans and Democrats.