Kruse stumps for Talent at Cape campaign stop

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Republican candidate discusses his stance at "farm and ranch rally."

Missouri Farm Bureau president Charlie Kruse, hoping to help U.S. Sen. Jim Talent win a full term, sought Tuesday to paint Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill as a liberal opposed to issues important to farmers.

During a rally at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, Kruse touted Republican Talent as an important ally for renewing farm support programs, helping agribusinesses and pushing the use of farm products to make fuel. He also took time to make a pitch for Talent as the candidate who will protect gun owners' rights and oppose gay marriage.

And to drive the point home, Kruse ended with this: "The Missouri Farm Bureau has endorsed Sen. Talent. The Sierra Club has endorsed his opponent. Need I say more?"

About 60 people attended the airport event, billed as a "farm and ranch rally." After Kruse spoke, Talent said the coming year in Congress will be vital to farmers as lawmakers debate possible changes in support programs.

Talent and McCaskill, the state auditor, are locked in a tight race that both Republicans and Democrats are targeting as vital for control of the U.S. Senate. Polls in the race have not shown either to have strong momentum as the results sometimes give one or the other candidate a slight lead and sometimes show the race a dead heat.

Talent took credit for a provision in the energy bill passed last year that will mandate that oil companies purchase 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel by 2012.

He attacked McCaskill for opposing the measure, noting that every senator from a major farm state supported the bill. McCaskill has attacked the measure for its tax breaks for major oil companies and because she says the crop-based fuels provisions aren't strong enough.

Crop-based fuels

McCaskill has called the alternative fuels provision "crumbs," Talent said. "She ought to get out in rural Missouri more. It is the whole cake for us."

Talent also touched on conservative themes he hopes will convince voters to keep him in office. He took on gay marriage, saying the courts should not decide cultural issues, attacked Democrats who want to keep the estate tax and called for a fence on the Mexican border to keep illegal immigrants out of the United States.

Sidesteps 'state issues'

In an interview after the rally, Talent declined to take sides on state ballot proposals to raise the minimum wage or to increase taxes on tobacco during a stop Tuesday in Cape Girardeau.

Talent called both items "state issues." He also declined to make predictions on how those issues, the stem-cell initiative on the Nov. 7 ballot or the elimination of straight-party voting could impact his hard-fought re-election bid.

"It is part of the externals I don't control and I don't know," Talent said.

During the airport event, Missouri Democratic Party worker Jason Brodsky recorded Talent and Kruse while local Republicans sought to block his view by standing and holding signs in front of his camera.

Brodsky, a tracker assigned to keep tabs on Talent's public events, took the effort to thwart his work in stride. Asked how local Talent supporters compared to those in other locations, he said: "They are a little more welcoming."

As Talent toured the state with Kruse, the Missouri Democratic Party attacked him and the Farm Bureau for supporting an animal identification program that Democrats said "would cause tremendous expense to family farmers and further solidify corporate agriculture's grasp on the industry."

The release from the Democrats said the Farm Bureau supports a mandatory program and that Talent, as chairman of the subcommittee with control of the animal ID legislation, has also supported a mandatory program.

Neither Kruse nor Talent mentioned the program at the rally. Talent recently introduced legislation to keep the program voluntary.

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