(Laura Simon) [Order this photo]
Steelman brought her "flatbed forum tour" to Southeast Missouri on Tuesday with stops in Perryville, Scott City and Sikeston. She was set to conclude her visit Tuesday night at Jackson Homecomers. She said the tour, which began July 9, is intended to highlight the importance of the state's agriculture industry and to bring attention to farm issues.
"There's a real disconnect between what's going on in Washington and what's happening, especially here in the Midwest," Steelman said. "It's so important to try to stem some of these federal regulations and to protect the farming community and the food supply."
While at Scott City, Steelman -- a former state treasurer and legislator -- took a tour of the Southeast Missouri Regional Port Authority, where she met with port employees, toured the riverside facilities and talked with company executives about agricultural issues.
At SEMO Milling, one of the seven businesses at the port, one employee greeted Steelman this way: "We really need more women in charge."
It's a sentiment that could work to Steelman's advantage in the upcoming primary, but probably won't help her come November. On Aug. 7, Steelman will square off against top GOP candidates U.S. Rep. Todd Akin and businessman John Brunner, both of the St. Louis area. Five other Republicans are on the ballot, though fundraising has been insignificant for all of them and none of them held public office in the past. The winner of the Republican primary will face U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Democratic incumbent, in the general election Nov. 6.
During the stop, Steelman asked several questions of Dan Overbey about how the recent drought has affected business, the history of the port and usage by those in the agricultural community that is made up statewide of 108,000 farms and 29.2 million acres in farmland.
Steelman, reciting a theme often used since she announced her candidacy, said farmers need to be protected from special interest groups like the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Farming Association. Such "activists," she said, want to restrict animal agriculture and hunting.
Federal regulations are being enacted by bureaucrats who have lost touch with what life on the farm is like, she said, citing one regulation that prohibits 14-year-olds from baling hay, deeming it a violation of child labor laws.
The Missouri Democratic Party referred questions about Steelman to McCaskill's campaign. But that doesn't mean the Democrats aren't paying attention. A so-called "tracker" employed by the Democratic Party was following Steelman from stop to stop Tuesday, taking notes and making attempts to capture her comments on video or a voice recorder.
But a Steelman staffer followed the Democratic operative and played music from her smartphone to disrupt the recording. At times, the two would scramble to get away from each other -- all while Steelman was talking. The tracker would only say that she worked for the Missouri Democratic Party and would not fully identify herself.
After the tour, Steelman said she doesn't mind the Democrats tracking her. But she said it can distract a conversation between her and a voter.
"When I'm talking to someone and she gets in our face, it can be annoying," Steelman said. "It really disrupts the exchange of information."
Steelman said her campaign does not employ such tactics.
But a showdown with McCaskill and the Democrats will have to wait. Steelman has a primary to get through first.
"Voters should know I'm going to do what I say I'm going to do," she said, as the tracker and her staffer buzz around behind her. "I'm going to stand up and fight for what I believe in. I want to rattle some cages."
10 Bill Bess Drive, Scott City, MO