This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Just days before the election, the St. Louis region’s major energy and defense companies – Peabody Energy and Boeing Co. – are jumping into the 8th District congressional contest, with last-minute donations to Republican Jason Smith.
Peabody’s political action committee gave $5,000 to Smith, while senior vice president Fred Palmer donated $2,600, both within the last 10 days. Both sums were the maximum allowed under federal contribution limits.
Texas-based Exxon Mobil also has given $5,000 to Smith within the last two weeks, while Boeing gave him $2,500.
Smith's campaign spokesman Jason Gibbs said the donations reflected the corporate concern “that the Missouri delegation as a whole maintain a strong conservative voting bloc that will advance an agenda that wants to create jobs and support industry in the state.”
Smith also has collected $5,000 from the GOP Generation Y Fund, a political action committee set up by U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill. Schock, like Smith, is only 32.
Gibbs said that donation “speaks to the importance of this election’’ to national Republicans. As the Beacon previously reported, Smith has been endorsed by several national Republicans, and received $5,000 from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's political action committee.
Meanwhile, Democrat Steve Hodges has collected a smaller number of last-minute donations, including several from such prominent St. Louis area lawyers as James Holloran, Alan Mandel and Andrew O’Brien. Each gave $1,000.
Hodges also received $2,500 within the past week from the United Steelworkers union and $1,500 from the United Food and Commercial Workers.
Smith has raised twice as much as Hodges as the two head into the final stretch leading up to Tuesday’s special election to replace veteran Jo Ann Emerson, who retired several months ago to take a lucrative job heading up the national Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
However, Hodges’ campaign manager, Jake Breymaier, says that “the wind’s at our back’’ as the Democrat continues to hammer at Smith for a comment he made at last Tuesday’s debate. Smith said that Missouri farmers didn‘t grow rice, when in fact the state is the nation’s fifth largest producer of rice.
Gibbs said that Smith simply misspoke, adding that Hodges incorrectly stated the date of the election.
Hodges, 64 and a former grocer, says that the rice comment fits in with his assertion that Smith lacks experience and knowledge of the district. Smith, 32, is a lawyer and helps run his family's farm.
Both men are state legislators with similar conservative voting records in the Missouri House.
Smith says he’s been much more successful in passing bills in the GOP-controlled chamber and notes his status as House speaker pro tem, the No. 2 post. Hodges says he has gotten enough legislation passed – some via amendments – to prove that he had a bipartisan record.
Hodges and Smith each cite newspaper endorsements as they travel throughout the far-flung district, which includes 30 counties in southeast and central Missouri. The northern boundary takes in part of Jefferson County.
Hodges spent Thursday campaigning in Jefferson County, while Smith is preparing for a four-day bus tour, beginning Saturday, that will criss-cross the district leading up to Tuesday’s election.
As the Beacon reported in an indepth overview last week, both candidates have been airing TV attack ads and seek to nationalize the race.
Smith is promising to be “a check on the Obama-Pelosi agenda in Congress,” said spokesman Gibbs, asserting that Hodges would be in lockstep with the Obama administration.
Meanwhile, Hodges is contending that Smith is aligned with Republicans seeking to cut Medicare and Social Security, important entitlements in the 8th, where almost half the population is over the age of 50.