Both of the major candidates for Missouri’s U.S. Senate seat were in the St. Louis area on Thursday, seeking to emphasize issues that will help their cause in November.
For McCaskill, Thursday’s topic was her support for a minimum-wage hike and opposition to right to work. Hawley zeroed in, once again, on Brett Kavanaugh’s pending nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
McCaskill hit the stump first, speaking on Thursday morning at Lona’s Lil’ Eats in south St. Louis. During a roughly 10-minute speech, McCaskill celebrated how Missouri residents overwhelmingly repealed right to work — which would have barred unions and employers from requiring workers to pay dues. She also emphasized her support for a ballot initiative to gradually raise Missouri’s minimum wage to $12-an-hour by 2023.
“So this is not a shock to the system of small-business owners,” McCaskill said. “But it is a shot in the arm for all the people that work at minimum wage. And make no mistake about it. This isn’t just a few people. I think people like to gloss over this and say ‘Well, nobody works at minimum wage.’ We have over 100,000 parents in Missouri working for minimum wage.”
“So now we have both minimum wage and right to work for less — Josh Hawley is on the wrong side of the table,” she added. “He is not fighting for the workers. He’s fighting for the folks in the boardroom.”
After Hawley’s campaign stop in south St. Louis County, he said, “I think that raising the minimum wage is probably a good idea.” But he added, “I’m not sure the one that’s on the ballot this fall is a good idea.
“I’m worried that it might actually result in lost jobs — haven’t made up my mind on it,” Hawley said. “It’s a little out of the mainstream, in terms of the types of wage increases you might see ... I think that we ought to be working to raise wages that will raise every wage that is beneath the median.”
In recent years, Democrats and their allies have placed minimum-wage increases on the ballots of states with competitive Senate contests. That’s what happened in 2006, when a measure to raise Missouri’s minimum wage passed easily.
Thus far, there’s no organized opposition to the proposal. Unions and politically active nonprofits have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to pass it. Some of those nonprofits, including the Sixteen Thirty Fund, have declined to reveal their donors.
When asked about that, McCaskill, who has spoken out against undisclosed money in politics, said she didn’t like it.
“I’ve said, 'I don’t care if an ad is for me or against me, or for things I believe in, or against things I believe in,'” McCaskill said. “If you can’t find out who paid for the ad, you shouldn’t believe a word of it.”
A couple of hours after McCaskill spoke, Hawley addressed a multitude of topics in front of the Missouri GOP’s south St. Louis County office. One of them was something he’s been hammering home for weeks — Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“She is going to have to answer to the people of Missouri for this choice,” Hawley said. “So, I challenge her again: announce your support for Judge Kavanaugh.”
Hawley noted that Missouri voted for President Donald Trump in 2016 by nearly 20 percentage points. A large part of Trump’s big win, he said, was that Missouri residents want “pro-constitution, conservative judges on the bench.”
“She should respect the wishes of the people of this state and pledge to vote ‘yes’ on Judge Kavanaugh,” Hawley said. “She should challenge her party to vote yes. She should be out there leading the charge. She should be out there saying ‘Listen, I’ve got to do what’s in the best interest of my state. I’ve got to do what the voters of my state want.'”
One of the audience members at McCaskill’s event asked the senator what she was planning to do about Kavanaugh’s nomination. McCaskill, who has met with Kavanaugh, said that she will wait until after his confirmation hearings to make a decision.
Supporters of abortion rights want McCaskill to vote against Kavanaugh’s nomination, contending that he could end up upholding restrictions to the procedure in the future.
McCaskill said however she votes, some Missouri residents won’t be happy with her decision.
“I am used to representing a state that no matter how I vote, half the people are mad at me,” McCaskill said. “I mean, this is not a state where everybody coalesces around particularly the really tough issues. So, I’m kind of used to this, because no matter how I vote, I’m going to irritate the base of my party — or I’m going to irritate some moderate Republicans, or maybe even some independent voters.
“When you have a situation where no matter how you vote, it’s not ‘political winner,’ in a way it’s a blessing,” she added. “Because it frees me up to do what I think is the right thing.”
Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings are slated to begin next week.
Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum