(Laura Simon) [Order this photo]
The Texas County farmer was in Cape Girardeau on Tuesday, again attacking U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's conservative credentials in his second attempt to unseat the 16-year incumbent Republican.
"We're running a ground game," Parker said Tuesday at a two-hour ice cream social where at least 20 people initially showed up. "That's the only way that I know how to do it with the resources I have. I know when I first ran there was no way I could compete with Mrs. Emerson."
Parker will face Emerson in the GOP primary Aug. 7. The winner there will face Democratic candidate Jack Rushin of Poplar Bluff, Mo., and Libertarian Rick Vandeven of Chaffee, Mo., in the Nov. 6 general election. Former candidate Todd Mahn of Jefferson County, who filed earlier this year as a Democrat, has since dropped out.
Just as he did in 2010 -- when Emerson won in the primary with 65.6 percent of the vote -- Parker again attacked her votes in favor of a $700 billion bank bailout and the Cash for Clunkers automobile sales incentive. He also questioned her votes to fund embryonic stem-cell research -- which he said Tuesday flies in the face of pro-life beliefs.
He also said that the federal deficit has grown exponentially.
"She's been in there 16 years and we're nearly $16 trillion in debt now and no end in sight," Parker said. "Last year, she voted to raise the debt ceiling again. As a true conservative, I think we need to be demanding real cuts. True conservatives believe the role of government is supposed to be limited."
Requests to Emerson's campaign seeking comment were declined.
Parker said he's racking up countless miles across the 8th District's 22 counties on a shoestring budget. Volunteers are going door to door. He's attending rallies, parades and other events to get his message out.
"I found that when people see the differences and understand the record, they support me," Parker said.
All of the remaining candidates acknowledged it was an uphill climb -- at least in the fundraising category. According to the most recent campaign finance report filing with the Federal Election Commission, Emerson had almost $250,000 cash on hand and the rest had almost nothing by comparison. Parker reported that, through March 31, he had $2,690 cash on hand and $6,878 in debt. Rushin, a chiropractor from Poplar Bluff and Vandeven, who works at Procter & Gamble, reported no contributions so far.
But Rushin, the lone Democrat standing with Mahn's departure, said he filed for office too late to make that filing deadline and has amassed "several thousand dollars" and will be required to file at the end of the quarter. Rushin favors a fair-tax proposal for the federal government that would replace all federal taxes on personal and corporate income with a single consumption tax on retail sales.
For his part, Rushin said he was disappointed that Mahn, who owns funeral homes in Jefferson County, dropped out of the race.
"On one hand, if you want to run, you'd like to be unopposed," Rushin said. "On the other, it would have been good for the accumulation of dialogue. I think it's a little more of a loss than a gain."
Vandeven said he wants to accomplish the same thing this time as he did when he ran for the 8th District seat two years ago -- giving voters a choice.
"I look at myself as giving a voice to the people who don't fit in to the pigeonhole of the Republican or Democratic Party," Vandeven said. "That's really what I'm there for. We're socially liberal and fiscally conservative. There's people out there that need somebody to vote for that understands what it takes to get us out of that fiscal mess."
While any of the challengers' chances at beating Emerson are uncertain, those at Parker's event say they hope he does it.
Cape Girardeau resident Wendy Flynn, who hosted Tuesday's event, said she is impressed with Parker's platform and his demeanor. She agreed with Parker that Emerson has a less conservative voting record than Parker would have.
"I'm sure she's a fine lady ... but her voting record is actually more liberal than some of the conservatives," Flynn said. "To each their own, and my own is conservative."