Carnahan tells party it must 'reconnect' with working people

Sunday, March 3, 2002

HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Sen. Jean Carnahan revisited an old theme for the Democratic Party on Saturday night, telling a gathering of party faithful that they must be the friend of the common man.

"Our challenge as public servants and as a party is to reconnect with those working Americans, those middle Americans who feel like no one is standing up for them," Carnahan said at the annual Democrat Days gathering for the state party in Hannibal.

"But unlike the Ken Lays of the world, they are not looking for access or privilege or advantage," she said. They're just looking for a level playing field. They believe hard work should be rewarded."

Carnahan, appointed to the U.S. Senate after her husband, Mel Carnahan, was posthumously elected in 2000, faces Republican Jim Talent, who lost that year in a tight race for governor to Bob Holden.

Holden and Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell on Saturday criticized Republicans' handling of the state Senate since they took control last year.

"To me, the lives of our children, the lives of our people, and these highways are more important than political grandstanding in Jefferson City," Holden said. "If we'd have had a Democratic Senate last session, we would have a new transportation program in the state of Missouri today."

'Their failed leadership'

Maxwell said Republicans too often have brought harsh campaign-style rhetoric onto the Senate floor and have not shown the leadership needed to get things done.

"I can respect the fact that they are the majority party of the chamber for which I am the president, but I cannot accept their failed leadership because that hurts the people," Maxwell told reporters.

His comments reflect one of the Democrats' priorities in elections this November: regaining the majority in the Senate, which they lost in special elections last year after more than five decades of control.

Maxwell also criticized Republicans' handling of education spending.

Shrinking state revenues mean lawmakers must find about $220 million if they are to fully fund the state's public schools, a goal supported both parties.

The lieutenant governor challenged Senate Republicans to provide a plan to meet the shortfall.

While Republicans have not offered such a plan, spending measures always begin in the House, which Democrats control.

State Treasurer Nancy Farmer and state lawmakers joined Maxwell in Hannibal, traditionally the first statewide event for the party each year.

Farmer spoke Saturday morning at a brunch attended by about 200 supporters.

"I am very, very excited. For the first time in Missouri our ticket will be led by two women," Farmer said, referring to Sen. Jean Carnahan and State Auditor Claire McCaskill, who are seeking re-election.

Only one Republican has filed to face McCaskill, political unknown Al Hanson of Concordia.

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