This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 29, 2011 - U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, may be offering more hints about his 2012 election plans by being the first Missouri member of Congress to laud the news that the United States is "finalizing a sale of 84 new F-15 fighter planes to Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally in the Middle East."
The F-15 is built by Boeing Co. at its aircraft manufacturing plant in St. Louis. The sale, already approved by Congress, means years of work for some of the thousands employed at the facility.
That plant, by the way, is in the 1st Congressional District, now represented by U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis. Boeing's operations remain in the 1st after redistricting takes effect with the 2012 election.
Carnahan's current 3rd District was dismembered under the new map, drawn by the Republican-controlled General Assembly to reflect the latest census numbers, which have forced Missouri to lose one of its current nine seats in the U.S. House. The General Assembly then overrode Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of the map.
Carnahan supports a lawsuit, filed in September by St. Louis area Democrats, to force a new map. Those Democrats have been joined by some Kansas City Republicans. The plaintiffs' lawyers are appealing a lower-court judge's dismissal of the case.
But in case the suit doesn't work out, Carnahan -- who has been adamant that he is running for re-election in 2012 -- has been holding various events in recent months in parts of his district that will be put into the new 2nd District, which remains GOP-leaning in the new map, and in the 1st.
Although national Democrats aren't keen on a Carnahan-Clay match, the former remains irked at the latter, who pressured a couple Democratic state legislators to cross Nixon by voting for the override.
In this instance, Carnahan beat out Clay today in lauding the F-15 sale, reportedly worth nearly $30 billon.
Said Carnahan in a statement:
"The Obama Administration and Saudi government are finalizing negotiations on a multi-billion dollar sale of Boeing F-15s -- produced here in St. Louis -- which will serve our security interests and those of our allies in the Middle East. Last year, I worked with my colleagues on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to ensure timely approval for this sale.
"Pending approval, this deal will ensure years of new fighter production at Boeing, keeping hundreds of middle-class manufacturing jobs in St. Louis. We should take pride in yet another success that shows when we all work together, St. Louis can compete and win."
UPDATE: Later this afternoon, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., followed suit by also praising the plane.
"The F-15 is a world class aircraft built by hardworking folks right here in St. Louis," the senator said in a statement. "I am thrilled for all of the skilled men and women on the F-15 line that this important, big order that I have stood side-by-side with them in working to secure is finally happening. These are important jobs in our community. I will continue advocating for sales of Boeing products wherever appropriate."
McCaskill -- who is seeking re-election in 2012 -- has become an outspoken Boeing booster the last couple of years, which is important for the aircraft manufacturer since she sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The panel OKed the Saudi deal some time ago.