news feature
April 20, 2007

 

 

 

St. Louis mayor endorses Clinton as
Missouri Democrats prepare for
‘Super Tuesday’ primary day
by Tom Bogdon

The battle for control of Missouri’s delegation to the 2008 Democratic National Convention — which has been centered so far on the eastern side of the state — will focus on western Missouri next month when Democrats gather in Independence for the annual Truman Days event.

Democratic State Chairman John Temporiti told eKC online that, because of growing interest in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination among Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards and several other candidates, Missouri Democrats have been turning out in near-record numbers for such events as Hannibal Days in northeast Missouri, Jackson Day in Springfield and Jefferson-Jackson Days this weekend in St. Louis.

Still to come is a Missouri Rural Caucus meeting June 29-30 in Dexter in southern Missouri. But the next such meeting will be Truman Days, which honors the May 8 birthday of President Harry S. Truman. This year the event, which annually attracts several hundred Democrats, will be held May 18-19 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Independence.

The keynote speaker for the 2007 Truman Days has not been announced, but organizers report that enthusiasm is growing. Undoubtedly, there will be some presidential politicking.

“So far everything is looking good,” said Bonnaye Mims, vice chair of the Jackson County Democratic Committee and chair of this year’s Truman Days event.

These events and many others are preludes to what is being called “Super Tuesday” or the “National Presidential Primary” on Feb. 5, 2008, when voters in Missouri and at least a dozen other states will have the opportunity to vote for the man or woman of their choice to carry the standard of the Democratic Party in the November general election.

And Feb. 5 will certainly be a Super Tuesday, when Democrats in the following states, and possibly others, will voice their choice: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Idaho, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma and Utah.

These elections will be preceded only by the Jan. 14 Iowa caucuses, the Jan. 22 New Hampshire primary, the Jan. 19 Nevada caucuses and the Jan. 29 South Carolina primary.

Those contests in four relatively small population states will be the only opportunities for the presidential hopefuls to engage in “retail” politics before the huge Super Tuesday elections on Feb. 5, which will be strictly “wholesale” politics and which many observers predict could decide the Democratic (and possibly the GOP) nominees.

“It’s a huge organizational task,” Dr. Gary Miller, political science professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said of Super Tuesday. “It’s national in scope and all on the same day. That’s a hard, huge task. It will require money for national advertising. It’s not knocking on doors politics like in New Hampshire.”

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, the Democrats’ 2004 vice presidential nominee, all have fledgling campaigns in Missouri, even though support still seems fluid in the state. There are even some Missourians who would like to see former Vice President Al Gore throw his hat into the ring.

On April 19, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay endorsed Clinton, and told eKC online: “I‘m not one to stand idly by or just stick my finger in the wind. I admire Hillary Clinton, and have met her several times. I worked with her in my leadership capacity with the National Conference of Mayors.

“She’s got a lot of experience,” Slay continued. “She really understands why cities matter. She has a very strong grasp of the opportunities and challenges of our American cities. She has really been a standard-bearer in Washington on issues that are important to cities — health care, education, job creation, opportunities for children and housing initiatives.”

Asked how he felt Clinton would fare among voters in out-state Missouri, Slay said, “The more you know about Hillary and how she approaches issues, the better you like her. It’s still early, and the field of candidates is still relatively large. She has a strong campaign organization and fundraising. It’s still 10 months until Feb. 5, and Senator Clinton has time to become better known in Missouri.”

Slay noted that Clinton will visit St. Louis on May 4 for a fundraising dinner at the Renaissance Grand Hotel.

State Sen. John Shoemyer, whose 18th District encompasses 13 northeast Missouri counties including the cities of Kirksville, Hannibal and Mexico, is backing John Edwards, whom he has known for several years. Shoemyer is appreciative of an appearance by Edwards at a northeast Missouri fundraiser a couple of years ago.

“John Edwards brings a seasoned, knowledgeable approach to issues that are important to Missourians, such as health care,” Shoemyer said. “He grew up in a working class family and his father worked in a textile factory. I think when you have those roots, you know how important it is to bring people out of poverty.”

Shoemyer farms 3,000 acres with his father and brother-in-law, raising cattle, corn, soybeans and wheat, and feels Edwards understands the problems of farmers.

“He understands the first thing farmers need is a fair price for what they produce,” Shoemyer said. “And he’s for country-of-origin labeling. When folks go to the store and buy dog bones, the country of origin is stated on the label. But if they buy hamburger, it can be commingled with imported meat.”

Shoemyer said farmers support such labeling regulations, but are opposed by the American Meat Institute, the trade group of big corporate meatpackers.

Summing up his admiration of former U.S. Sen. Edwards, Shoemyer said, “He developed his style of campaigning, his ability to speak on the stump, in the last election cycle. He brings wisdom and political toughness it will take to carry the state of Missouri.”

Bob Clark, CEO of Clayco Construction Co. in St. Louis, a large building contractor and real estate development firm, is Missouri finance director for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who has accomplished a meteoric rise in national politics and is definitely in the top tier of presidential candidates. Clark said he has in the past supported both Republican and Democratic candidates.

“I met Senator Obama a couple of years ago in Aspen, Colorado, and have been following his career the last few years. I was very impressed with his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He’s very bright, for one thing. He’s refreshingly smart.

“Barack has a wide audience in the Democratic Party,” Clark continued. “He also draws interest from Republicans. The other Democratic candidates, on the other hand, polarize the moderates. The No. 1 reason I’m supporting Obama is that he’s electible in a general election. And I do not believe the other Democratic candidates can be elected in a general election.”

Clark said he did not know the details of Obama’s campaign strategy, but added, “Missouri is an important state, a bellwether state in presidential elections. He’s paying attention to Missouri. He was in St. Louis in February, and he will be here May 11 to visit St. Louis and Kansas City. He’s taking the state very seriously.”

Commenting on former House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s axiom that “all politics is local,” Miller, the Washington University political scientist, related O’Neill’s gem of wisdom to the presidential race in Missouri.

“I think there is a little local politics in the Missouri presidential campaign,” Miller said. “Among Missouri Democrats, I think Barack Obama, who is from neighboring Illinois, will look good, increasingly so. I think he could win the Missouri primary.”

Miller said he based that observation in part on a recent New York Times story about the sources of contributions to the campaign war chests of Clinton, Obama and Edwards. Miller said the story reported that Clinton was drawing much of her funding from New York and California. Edwards was drawing contributions from the South, Miller said. Obama drew contributions from the Midwest, including Chicago and St. Louis.

Should the competition between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the support of many of the same constituents result in a deadlock between these front-runners, and if Edwards is unable to gain sufficient traction, Miller said that situation might open the door for one of the second-tier candidates or bring Al Gore to enter the race.

“I could see a third candidate, besides Edwards, picking up support,” Miller said. “Theoretically, that’s possible. I think Gore would have to be more visible than now. Not many drafts have been successful. I can’t think of one.”

Some Missourians speak favorably of Gore because of his long-standing opposition to the Iraq War, and his strong credentials as an environmentalist. One of these is state Rep. Mike Talboy, whose district includes downtown Kansas City.

“I would love to see the Vice President get into the presidential race,” Talboy said. “I think he has had a consistent position on the war, health care and the environment, and I’m fairly certain that some of those who either did not vote or narrowly voted for President Bush in 2000 have found themselves regretting that decision.

“This president has been one of the worst if not the worst on issues across the board of any president and I would welcome the addition of Vice President Gore to the presidential field,” Talboy said.

Hugh McVey, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, a key Democratic constituency, said he did not expect the labor federation to endorse a candidate before Super Tuesday, although one or more individual unions might endorse a candidate or candidates.

“I have been contacted by several candidates or their campaigns and have informed them that endorsements for president will be made by the national AFL-CIO,” McVey said. “However, the Missouri AFL-CIO feels all the Democratic primary contenders are friends of the AFL-CIO and we look forward to a healthy debate regarding workers issues in the months to come.”

Tom Bogdon is a Kansas City-based writer. He can be contacted at tjbogdon@yahoo.com.


              
              
                 

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