Category Archives: Missouri Politics

Akin claims statistical dead heat

Rep. Todd Akin‘s campaign is touting new poll numbers that place the Missouri Republican in a statistical dead heat with incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill in a closely watched Senate race. The outcome may determine which party controls the upper chamber when the new Congress is seated in January.

Mason-Dixon Polling & Research surveyed 625 registered voters, showing McCaskill up 45 – 43%, with 8% undecided. The poll was conducted for KMOV-TV in St. Louis, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Kansas City Star, and has a margin of error of +/- 4%.

In an email to supporters, the Akin campaign noted that the challenger has been outspent 10-1 in recent weeks. Indeed, it’s been hard not to notice the paucity of Akin ads on the airwaves as we come down the home stretch of this election, though I did see one on Fox News this evening sponsored by Freedom’s Defense Fund.

The Akin campaign rallied supporters in an email last night, pointing to just-released independent poll numbers showing the race to be a dead heat.

That may be the real problem for Akin. Money – or lack of it. In conservative-leaning Missouri, amidst a recent national upswing for the GOP, and with unflinching support from his base, Akin has managed to even the race.

The question is whether Akin will be able to hold his own with the remaining undecided voters. He is currently behind with independents (and presumably most of the remaining undecideds are also independents), so he’s got to break that trend to capture his share of votes still on the table. If he can do that, he can win – because among existing supporters, I believe Akin’s are more committed and more likely to show up at the polls on Election Day, or vote early, or absentee.

Akin needs money to win some of these undecideds. Will GOP groups come to the rescue, in the form of independent expenditures on TV time and other efforts? That remains to be seen.

But if you are a Missouri Republican and you have been avoiding this race, it’s time to get off the sidelines.

Who do you support? Show it – with your time or your money or in your conversation with friends and family. Because one of these two candidates will represent Missouri in the Senate for the next six years. I for one do not want that person to be Claire McCaskill, and I’m not afraid to say it.

Note: I’ve updated this post today (10/27/12 around 2pm) to correctly identify Freedom’s Defense Fund (I called it America’s Freedom Fund earlier) and link to the group and its ad. I’ve also named the media outlets that commissioned the poll, and linked to the KMOV report cited in the Akin email.

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Filed under 2012 Congressional Elections, Missouri Politics, Missouri Senate Race

Is there a future for this man in Missouri politics?

I caught a headline in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch today, about Dave Spence taking heat for ducking debates with Bill Randles in the GOP primary for the Missouri governor. The Lake Area Conservative Club of Camdenton invited both men to speak at their meeting this week, but after apparently agreeing Spence later pulled out only days before the event, citing confusion and saying the club’s invitation had been misleading. Randles spoke at the event while Spence attended a fish fry in nearby Wright County.

St. Louis-area businessman Dave Spence has been the presumptive front-runner for some time in this primary, while before today I don’t know that I had heard of Kansas City attorney Bill Randles (a man with rural roots who went on to Harvard Law School). Spence has cash, connections and momentum and it’s difficult to imagine somebody knocking him off at this point. Recent polling has Spence with a solid lead as well as a slight advantage over his primary opponent in a general election match-up versus incumbent Democrat Jay Nixon (though both still trail by double-digits).

This little dust-up is interesting, and the charge of avoiding debate is certainly a legitimate line of attack for underdog Randles to pursue against front-runner Spence. What’s more interesting to me though is what kind of future Bill Randles may have in Missouri politics – if he has any at all, of course. There are a lot of very decent, talented, public-spirited people who give politics a try. Former Republican state legislative candidate John Destefano of Kansas City (north of the river) comes to mind – a former KCPL executive with a great military, family, and community background, he nonetheless was unable to get elected to a state rep or state senate seat.

Republican gubernatorial primary candidate Bill Randles (via

Reading his bio and scanning his website, Randles strikes me as an idealist. A hard-working, conservative-minded, professionally accomplished but politically untested idealistHe might have thought: since he had waited for so long to enter politics, achieved a lot in his academic and professional life, and thought deeply for some time about policy issues and his beliefs about what could make the state or nation a better place, that he could and should aim high when he finally decided to pursue public service. And that’s understandable.

It’s also a misjudgment, most likely. Kind of like Michael Jordan giving major league baseball a try and thinking maybe he should just swing for the fences in his first trip to the plate in spring training.

I’m basing this solely on what I’ve learned in five or ten minutes looking at his website, but I would think there’s a future – if he wants one – for a guy like Bill Randles in Missouri politics. He comes from a  modest background, went to school in Missouri before matriculating to Harvard Law, seems to be a man of sincere faith, has clearly held political convictions and obviously has an interest in serving. The question is – assuming no radical change in the gubernatorial primary – what elected office or other opportunity should he pursue to do that in the future? And how can fellow Republicans who may believe he has something to offer guide him to the right opportunities?

I ask these about Randles but they are the type of questions anybody who thinks about public service must consider (or even active citizens who simply want to see good people elected). How wisely one asks and answers them will strongly influence their level of political success.

P.S. What’s the right office for a first-timer with this candidate’s experience or resume? That depends on his or her particular skills and his vision or agenda. I would think something closer to an open state senate, congressional or down-ballot statewide race. Finding boards, commissions or committees to serve on in the mean time could go a long way in gaining experience and demonstrating a commitment to service – it never hurts to start small. Needless to say, being active in the party and supporting other candidates can also be key.


Filed under Missouri Politics

The New Republic on Jeff Smith

Jason Zengerle of TNR profiles the former state senator’s fall from grace. (Subscription required to access full article).

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Filed under Crime, Missouri Politics

Education agenda in Missouri

Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) has pre-filed several education bills in the state legislature. The Daily Star-Journal reports, via John Combest.

SB12 tailors the foundation formula to deal with current revenue challenges.

SB13 charges the joint education committee to oversee a task force on teacher compensation and effectiveness.

SB14 instructs DESE to clarify the transfer rights of students in unaccredited districts.

Commenting on the task force, Pearce signaled interest in more closely tying teacher evaluations to student achievement. The assessment could facilitate performance pay agreements between teachers and districts. For example, a teacher could choose to forsake tenure in exchange for earned bonuses.

MNEA legislative director Otto Fajen claimed to welcome the study, before  disparaging its idea for a “pay scheme” as invalid and unviable. The  knowledgeable – but ever gloomy and predictable – Fajen was good for a colorful quote, however:

“Teachers are already doing the best they know how and… what they really do not need is for someone to tell them, ‘If you were thinking more about money, you would do a better job.’ Does that make sense? They’re lucky to have time to pee during the school day.” (emphasis added)

I noticed among the pre-filings that Sen. Robin Wright-Jones (D-St. Louis) has introduced SB20 and SB21 to expand compulsory attendance in the city of St. Louis to kids age five (or four, depending on birthday) through eighteen. Sen. Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield) has filed SB51, requiring public libraries to avoid making obscene materials available to minors.

Will try to take a look tomorrow at any pre-filed education measures in the House – I know Rep. Sara Lampe (D-Springfield) has one on autism, but there may be more.

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Filed under Education, Missouri Politics

Tax talk continues…

Lower income taxes on individual and corporate earnings boost economies and improve living standards, suggests a Show-Me Institute op-ed published in the St. Louis Beacon. States taxing personal income at a lower rate and spending less per capita are growing in population, while those in relative decline tax and spend more heavily using these measurements.

Thanks to SMI, its supporters and like-minded thinkers I think we can expect to see continued and increasing discussion surrounding taxation in Missouri. The most recent cycle and e-tax reform may just have been the beginning. Fifty federated states a laboratory of democracy makes – the census results come at an opportune time for such discussion.

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Filed under Economy, Missouri Politics


Missouri Results.

Kansas Results.

It’s a good day for America.



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Filed under 2010 House Elections, 2010 Senate Elections, Kansas, Missouri Politics

Cameras in the courtroom?

Not a good idea, says Chris Berger of Overland Park, Kansas. He notes that issue has increasingly arisen in recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Installing cameras would politicize the court and threaten its independence, writes Berger. I generally agree with that assessment, and I oppose using cameras to broadcast Supreme Court proceedings.

There have been some efforts to tape and broadcast committee hearings in the Missouri General Assembly. I don’t know if those efforts ever gained traction, but I would be similarly disinclined to support such a move. Not that committee hearings could never be recorded by video, but that it is unnecessary and inadvisable to videotape every meeting of every committee to produce for open consumption. Even if it was cheap and easy to do – which it probably wouldn’t be – that would not alter more principal considerations.

Our national and state governments are designed according to republican principles, and are stabilized by a system of checks and balances. Whether it’s bringing cameras into the Court Chamber of the Supreme Court – or Hearing Room 6 in the basement of the Missouri State Capitol – let’s not tamper with republicanism and checks and balances in an ill-fated grasp at “transparency.”

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Filed under Missouri Politics, Supreme Court