Important choices will be made in Aug. 3 primary

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

It's time to choose. The Aug. 3 primary is just two weeks away. Missouri and Cape Girardeau County have more primary races than I can recall in recent elections.

In the Democratic race for governor, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has endorsed current governor Bob Holden, while the Springfield News-Leader has endorsed his challenger, State Auditor Claire McCaskill.

Key Democrats, former lieutenant governors Roger Wilson and Harriet Woods, have endorsed McCaskill, while former U.S. senators Jean Carnahan and Tom Eagleton, along with Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell, have endorsed Holden.

The Post-Dispatch recently endorsed state Sen. Ken Jacob for lieutenant governor in the competitive race with former secretary of state Bekki Cook.

The St. Louis paper also endorsed state Sen. Peter Kinder on the Republican ballot for lieutenant governor and state Sen. Sarah Steelman for state treasurer.

Cape Girardeau has three candidates running for state representative. The primary winner is assured of election as there is no Democratic general-election candidate. Channel 5 on the Cape Girardeau cable-TV system will be running replays of the League of Women Voters candidate forums, a must-see for those who need more information on these three candidates (and others).

Show times are 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. tonight and July 28 for the two separate forums. You'll have to see both programs to view all of the contested primary candidates.

The large slate of county commissioner, sheriff, treasurer, coroner and public administrator candidates were videotaped and will be on the programs.

Our newspaper has a non-endorsement editorial policy, but this does not prohibit me from personally recommending candidates for your consideration, which I might do in the general election.

However, with so many qualified friends running in the primary races, I'll take advantage of the secret ballot which lets me and you vote for the best candidate without fear of hurting a friend's feelings.

Blue-chip investors: Here are total contributions for the 10 biggest contributors in American politics since 1989.

American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, $34,691.847

National Association of Realtors, $23,860,577

National Education Association, $22,975,324

Association of Trial Lawyers of America, $22,899,466

Communications Workers of America, $21,759,276

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, $21,013,079

Carpenters & Joiners Union, $20,649,487

Laborers Union, $20,631,889

Teamsters Union, $20,491,215

Philip Morris, $20,255,965

Based on data released by the FEC March 2004

Note: Seven of the top 10 are union affiliated, and the figures do not include the labor unions get-out-the-vote contributions. On the list are trial attorneys (big donors in Democrat races in Missouri) and two business-oriented groups.

More information can be found on the Web at Center for Responsive Politics.

This year, individual unreported unlimited contributions to 527 corporations have swelled media purchases of Democratic candidates by 400 percent-plus over Republican candidates' expenditures.

Medical tort reform: For some time there have been reports relating to Missouri's loss of medical doctors due to excessive malpractice insurance rates. And the numbers continue to rise.

Communities on the western side of the state fall under the umbrella of Kansas City's medical climate, at least to some extent. A recent investigative news story in The Kansas City Star furnished some convincing statistics that provide a rationale for many Missouri physicians seeking a more friendly and reasonable situation.

Kansas City area malpractice premiums are higher than in neighboring states: internal medicine, $16,385; general surgery, $70,195; OB GYN, $98,020. Commensurate rates in Kansas are $7,798, $31,571 and $48,916, and in Iowa $7,417, $20,638 and $41,073. Contrasts in other nearby states are even more striking.

For HMO patients insurers pay Kansas City doctors 78 percent of what Springfield doctors receive. Kansas City general surgeons' malpractice premiums are 240 percent higher than those in Iowa.

There is something terribly out of sync. It is to the detriment of health care in Missouri. On top of losing physicians, recruiting doctors has become close to impossible. -- The (Warrensburg, Mo.) Daily Star-Journal

The venerable name in men's clothing, Hartmarx, allows you to get in on two trends: the revival of wearing suits to the office and an uptick in dressier casual wear. This operation soldiered through a killer trend that now is leveling off : business-casual style. Known best for its Hart Schaffner Marx and Hickey-Freeman suits and coats, Hartmarx countered by expanding its casual lines, such as Racquet Club and Palm Beach. Further, Hartmarx struck license agreements with the likes of Tommy Hilfiger to make his clothing, bearing his label, for sale in a variety of midrange retail outlets.

Hartmarx has reduced employee count from 5,000 to 4,200 and performed a balance-sheet restructuring that helped lower interest expense by 50 percent. Men's apparel has been sluggish up to now, despite the company's best efforts, and revenue dipped a bit last year. Nevertheless, the cost reductions allowed EPS to increase 8 cents, to 26 cents. We expect 40 cents this year and 50 cents in 2005. The P/E is 24, close to the broader market's. -- Forbes Magazine

Note: Hartmarx is one of our largest local manufacturers. We not only wish them well, but note that this trend to better dressing seems to be keeping the local facility busy.

Gary Rust is the chairman of Rust Communications

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