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Meet the candidates in the 9th congressional district: Blaine Luetkemeyer

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 29, 2008 - During the primaries, Blaine Luetkemeyer thought the economy was the key issue.

A few months after making it through to the next round, with a Wall Street bailout and whispers of a recession, looks like he picked right.

And the issue is still at the top of his list.

"Blaine is a former state bank examiner whose job it was to ensure that Missouri's banking system was sound," wrote Luetkemeyer's spokesperson, Paul Sloca, in response to an e-mail about Luetkemeyer's take on the current financial bailout deal. "That experience provides him with a unique grasp of the situation."

Luetkemeyer served as a state representative from 1999 to 2005. During that time he was appointed chair of the Financial Services Committee.

Rep. B.J. Marsh, R-Springfield, worked with Luetkemeyer in the state house and later during Luetkemeyer's time as the director of the Missouri Division of Tourism. Marsh is the chairman of the special committee on tourism.

He says Luetkemeyer is hard working, serious and brought common business sense to both positions.

"What he tells you is the way it's gonna be," Marsh says. "He's incredibly honest. You don't find that nowadays."

Another of Luetkemeyer's strengths was his personal money, says Marvin Overby, a political science professor at the University of Missouri, Columbia.

While his opponent, Judy Baker, raised $356,247 in individual donations and gave her campaign $10,000 of her own money, Luetkemeyer didn't do so well, raising $133,488 in individual donations and giving his campaign $325,000 of his own money.

Luetkemeyer is a social conservative, a member of the National Rifle Association and the only candidate during the primary to get the endorsement of the Missouri Right to Life.

He's reasonably well known in the district and viewed as center-right, Overby says. "He is probably closer to where the median voter is in the 9th district."

Below, find Luetkemeyer's other positions on the economy, the war, domestic oil drilling and the housing market.

What's the most important issue to voters in this campaign?

Luetkemeyer: The economy, which encompasses several issues, including gas prices and drilling for domestic oil.

How do you propose to deal with those issues?

Luetkemeyer supports offshore drilling and fast tracking refineries. He believes that while the benefits of drilling wouldn't immediately be felt, the affect it would have on oil speculation would bring prices down. "It's also a sort-term solution."

How important is energy independence?

Luetkemeyer: Very. Energy independence would allow for a reduction of gas prices as the economy grows and the need increases. Luetkemeyer also believes the issue is one of national security.

Do you support research and funding of alternative fuels, and what should the government's role be?

Luetkemeyer: "Renewable fuels are not the solution, but they are part of the solution." Alternative fuels, he says, can be bridge fuels from oil to whatever comes next. "What it is, I don't know." Luetkemeyer believes in encouraging research, but that government's role is to get out of the way and let industry work. "They will find the best solution."

Do you support windfall profits taxes on oil companies?

Luetkemeyer: "No. Any sort of tax on a corporation is nothing more than a backdoor tax on the people." Luetkemeyer believes that government could entice oil companies to use money from those profits to build refineries.

Can -- or should -- government do anything about high oil and gas prices?

Luetkemeyer believes Congress should establish a national policy on energy that encompasses oil production, electricity production and provides stability for the market place to take speculation out.

Do the health care and insurance systems need to be changed and how?

Luetkemeyer believes the free-market approach is the best. The best policy is to let doctors and patients choose what's needed; a regulated environment isn't conducive to cost containment. He also would support small businesses being better able to pool and negotiate better insurance rates.

What should be done with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Luetkemeyer: "At this point, it looks like the surge has worked." Luetkemeyer believes the stance in Iraq has added stability to the Middle East. In Afghanistan, U.S. efforts have been stymied by Pakistan, he says, but he believes we should continue working with the Pakistani government. In Iraq, he doesn't support a timeline for withdrawal, but says Iraqis should step forward and the U.S. should talk with warring tribes and political factions.

Is earmarking a problem in Congress, and how would you change it?

Luetkemeyer: Yes, Congress needs to implement more transparency, but some earmarks do promote development. Luetkemeyer believes sponsor's names should be on every item for transparency.

What are the three most important things that the government can and should do to ensure ordinary Americans' financial stability and security?

Luetkemeyer: Protect and defend the country, form a national energy policy and reduce the tax burden on investment, including the capital gains tax. Luetkemeyer would change the tax structure to make it more business-friendly, which he believes would allow businesses to expand and retain jobs.

What specifically would you do in Congress to improve the housing market?

Luetkemeyer: "That's a great question." Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had no regulation or sound lending practices and that led to the current mess. Luetkemeyer thinks it makes sense for the government to purchase "bad paper" to give strength to the financial system.

Has deregulation gone too far?

Luetkemeyer: Yes and no. Luetkemeyer believes some added regulations are needed. Things worked well from the 1930s to the 1990s. "We know what works. I don't know why we got away from it." However, he adds, "You can go the other direction, too. You can regulate right out of business."

Blaine Luetkemeyer

Home: St. Elizabeth

Professional experience: Missouri House of Representatives, 1998-2004; director of Missouri Division of Tourism, 2006-2008; owns the Luetkemeyer Insurance Agency, family owns and operates the Bank of St. Elizabeth, where Luetkemeyer is a loan officer

Campaign Financing: $466,988 raised as of July 16. That includes $133,488 from individuals; $8,500 from political action committees; and $325,000 from the candidate.

For more info: www.blaineforcongress.com

Kristen Hare is a freelance writer in Lake St. Louis. 

Kristen Hare

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