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Government, Politics & Issues

Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor seek low-cost ways to appeal for votes

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 10, 2012 - While the Republican candidates for Missouri lieutenant governor already are sparring in TV ads, the crowd of Democratic contenders is relying primarily – and, perhaps, exclusively – on word of mouth.

At the moment, none of the Democratic lieutenant governor hopefuls is running TV ads – and several hinted they didn’t expected any of them to do so in the coming weeks, because of lack of campaign cash.

On Monday, four of the eight Democrats competing in the Aug. 7 primary participated in a forum in Ballwin organized by the West County Democrats. Several candidates said it was the only forum for the contest before the primary.

The four participants included most of the best-known candidates: state Rep. Sara Lampe of Springfield, Mo., former state Reps. Judy Baker of Columbia, Mo., and Fred Kratky of St. Louis; and St. Louis School Board member Bill Haas.

But all acknowledged that the perceived frontrunner was noticeably absent from the forum: former state Auditor Susan Montee. Her son and spokesman, Andy Montee, cited a scheduling conflict. (He also said she had no plans to run TV ads.)

The lack of publicity could make it more difficult for each of the Democratic contenders to stand out, and several acknowledged as much during the forum.

“It’s still a toss-up,’’ said Lampe. She also observed that she believed another higher-profile Democratic contest – the 1st District congressional battle between U.S. Reps Russ Carnahan and William Lacy Clay Jr. – could have an impact on the outcome of their race.

There’s also the matter of an apparent lack of stark differences among the Democratic hopefuls.

At Monday’s forum, the four participants agreed on the basics, starting with the importance of the job they’re seeking – even if, several acknowledged, many voters don’t perceive it.

Said Kratky: “The lieutenant governor must be prepared every day in the event of a disaster.”  He noted that then-Lt. Gov. Roger Wilson became governor in October 2000 when then-Gov. Mel Carnahan died in a plane crash.

Baker pointed out that the lieutenant governor presides over the state Senate, which she said in Missouri’s case is “probably one of the most broken in the country.’’

As an example, she cited the Republican-controlled General Assembly’s opposition to health-insurance exchanges, which she said is surprising since exchanges offer the public “the ability to buy insurance on an open market’’ – and were originally a GOP idea.

All decried the effect of term limits on the General Assembly, and the actions in 2008 to get rid of campaign-donation limits – an idea that had been approved by Missouri voters 16 years earlier.

Kratky noted that Republican lieutenant governor hopeful Brad Lager, a state senator from Savannah, Mo., recently received $250,000 from Republican donor David Humphreys.

Any candidate or officeholder would be beholden to such a major contributor, Kratky said. The situation, he continued, “is just wrong.”

Lampe told the audience that there will be no change unless Democrats retake control of the legislature. A former teacher, she also said that many Republican legislators have embraced “an anti-preschool movement’’ that she said hurts public education the state.

Said Haas: “We will never have a level playing field, until we get corporations out of politics.”

Haas emphasized his opposition to large corporate-owned farms, and pledged he’d focus on helping veterans and the elderly, in line with the lieutenant governor’s powers.

Kratky emphasized his business background in real estate, while Baker talked of her various posts in business and government. Lampe cited her 30-year background in education, and her eight years in the state House.

All four also agree on the key constituencies for any Democrat seeking to win a primary: “African-Americans, labor unions, women and progressives,’’ Lampe said.

The challenge for each, the four acknowledged Monday, is getting the word out -- to get the votes.

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