Supermarket-industry chief executive officers interviewed by SN in recent weeks are looking to back a “pro-business” presidential candidate in November, although they also cited a need for the Republican Party to focus on some domestic policies.
Eric Lindberg, co-CEO of Berkeley, Calif.-based discount chain Grocery Outlet, said he's supporting John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, although he conceded, “There are a lot of domestic issues that need fixing.
“For example, we need to invest in our own country and create improvements here rather than fighting on so many fronts,” he said, when asked what he would do as president. “Maybe I sound like a retreatist, but there's a lot we need to do right here.”
Mark Oerum, owner of HOWS Markets, Pasadena, Calif., said he was still undecided in the presidential race.
“I'm normally a Republican, but a lot of things have gone wrong the last couple of years, and I'm not proud of the nation we are today. I probably would have voted for Hillary [Clinton] if she were the Democratic nominee, but right now I'm not sure.”
If he were president, Oerum said, “I would get us out of Iraq and then work on the economy. We need to do something with the oil companies. I hate to say we need more government involvement, but I'm not a big supporter of being in Iraq because I think the money could be spent better on the U.S. infrastructure, which needs a lot of work.”
Jay Campbell, CEO of Associated Grocers of Baton Rouge, La., said what he's seen so far from both sides is little more than “political rhetoric.” He supports a government that takes a more laissez-faire approach to the free-market system, and believes the U.S. government needs to take step back and re-think its purpose.
“Is government there to flow money to, and then get that money back through earmarks or special appropriations, or is the federal government to provide fertile ground for business and industry to grow, to provide security and safety for the American citizen, to ensure that there are laws that are passed, promulgated and enforced fairly throughout the country?” he asked. “I think we've lost touch with what government is all about, because we have got some very serious, and in my opinion, socialistic leanings, which are not based on a free society.”
Steve Smith, president and CEO, K-VA-T Food Stores, Abingdon, Va., said he supports McCain, and noted that the election “is going to be very critical to our industry. Whether it's card check or interchange, there is an awful lot of legislation that affects us.
“Typically, our industry is pro-fiscal conservatives. That's what we thought we were getting with President Bush, but I'm not sure that's what we got! Either way, we'd be behind the more pro-business candidate and that's probably McCain.”
Scott Schnuck, CEO of Schnuck Markets, St. Louis, sidestepped the political questions.
“The beauty of the secret ballot!” he said when asked which candidate he supported.