Steelman, Hulshof spar over ethanol, earmarks

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Republican gubernatorial candidates Kenny Hulshof and Sarah Steelman sparred over the state ethanol mandate and their fiscally conservative attributes in a radio debate Wednesday.

A state law that took effect in January requires gas stations to sell a 10 percent ethanol blend whenever it is not more expensive than traditional gasoline. Steelman, who is state treasurer, recently withdrew her support for the ethanol mandate.

"It needs to be eliminated because what works best in this economy is the free market," Steelman said during Wednesday's debate hourlong debate on Kansas City public radio station KCUR. "When you have government mandates it just forces up the price. ... Removing that mandate will certainly help make gas prices more competitive."

Hulshof, Missouri's 9th District congressman whose family farms corn, said he continues to support the mandate.

"In order to compete ... I think we should be encouraging domestic use of renewable and responsible exploration at home," said Hulshof, adding that ethanol takes about 586,000 gallons of oil a day out of the domestic market.

"We're paying so much already for gasoline," Hulshof said. "If we take out the ethanol, we can expect gas to (rise) 40 cents or more (a gallon). And 40 cents more, that's not the direction I want to go."

The ethanol mandate was one of the priorities of Republican Gov. Matt Blunt as he campaigned for governor four years ago. But Blunt is not seeking re-election this year.

Steelman and Hulshof will face off in the Aug. 5 primary, with the winner expected to face Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon in November.

Steelman and Hulshof also tried to defend their records as fiscal conservatives, with Steelman taking aim at Hulshof for voting for congressional earmarks.

"I think the federal earmarks are really an immoral way of doing business in government," Steelman said. "They are slipped into a bill ... without the public knowing about them some of the time."

Hulshof defended his voting record, accused Steelman of also voting for earmarks while in the state Senate and said he has "always been accused of being too conservative." He said he worked to reduce the size of some of the bills containing earmarks.

"The point is to take the record as a whole," he said.

Hulshof has the support of the state's entire Republican congressional delegation, a majority of state Republican lawmakers and key interest groups in the business and agricultural sectors.

When asked why so few of the GOP establishment support her candidacy, Steelman cited her record working in Jefferson City.

"One of the first things I did as a freshman senator was propose to eliminate the legislative pension because it's a part-time job. ... They did not appreciate my bill," she said.

Steelman said she also filibustered against a multimillion dollar proposal for a new stadium in St. Louis.

"Again, I had to go against the president pro-tem of the Senate. ... and a lot of major supporters of the Republican party," Steelman said. "But again, I thought that was a huge waste of taxpayers' money."

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