Dems’ debate gets personal

Claire McCaskill confronts Bob Holden about verbal attacks on her husband.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:18 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

ST. LOUIS — Getting personal at times during their second debate, Gov. Bob Holden and State Auditor Claire McCaskill on Tuesday night presented two starkly different images of Missouri’s governor: Holden held himself forth as a winner; McCaskill painted him as a loser.

Each proclaimed they were better able to bear the Democratic banner against Republicans — reason for Democrats to vote for them in the Aug. 3 gubernatorial primary.

Holden used the televised debate to promote, as many times as possible, his accomplishments in education, health care and job creation.

But McCaskill said Holden had fallen short in all three.



And to Holden’s claims that he successfully fought the Republican-led legislature on key issues, McCaskill countered that it was Holden’s poor leadership that allowed the GOP to win the Statehouse during his administration.

The themes echoed those of the first Democratic gubernatorial debate Monday night in Kansas City, with one notable exception.

Citing a mass e-mail from Holden’s campaign, McCaskill said it appears Holden has been attacking her husband, businessman Joseph Shepard, and confronted him about it.

The e-mail sent to Holden supporters contends Missourians for Accountability, an independent group running ads on McCaskill’s behalf, is linked to her campaign and allows people, such as Shepard, to essentially “donate additional illegal funds” to McCaskill.

Noting Holden had congratulated McCaskill on her marriage to Shepard and previously accepted contributions from him, McCaskill, “Are you going to attack my husband in this campaign?”

Holden responded that he has run a “very straight-forward campaign,” using McCaskill’s question to instead again declare he was focused on education, health care and jobs.

McCaskill and Holden both said they supported an Aug. 3 ballot measure to allow a casino in the Branson area town of Rockaway Beach and opposed another ballot measure to add a gay-marriage ban (which already is state law) to the state constitution.

Both candidates also support abortion rights and were questioned about St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke’s assertion that Roman Catholic voters who support candidates in favor of abortion rights should confess their sins before taking Communion.

McCaskill, who is Catholic, said the bishop’s words hurt her: “I am troubled by the position the bishop has taken. I will pray for him and I hope he will continue to pray for me.”



Holden, who is not Catholic, said, “It’s unfortunate when any leader tries to step in and put their value system over the value system of the women trying to make the decision.”

The candidates also argued over which one of them opposed concealed guns more. The legislature enacted a concealed guns law last year by overriding Holden’s veto by the slimmest possible margin.

Asked why he couldn’t convince one more fellow Democrat to stick with him, and thus avert the override, Holden referred to Senate “wheeling and dealing.”

“I stood on principle; I would do it again,” he said.

McCaskill claimed she could have kept the bill from passing.

“As a first-term Democratic governor, if you can’t get one (more) Democratic senator (to sustain a veto), that’s an indictment of your leadership and your power,” McCaskill said.

The winner of the Democratic primary is expected to face Republican Secretary of State Matt Blunt in the November election, although Blunt must also survive a primary challenge from lesser-known opponents.

McCaskill mentioned Blunt by name in Tuesday’s debate, declaring about Democrats, “We need to win this election, and I believe I am the most electable candidate that could face Matt Blunt this November.”

She cited her parents’ inspiration for her career.

Holden referenced President Truman’s 1948 campaign, in which Truman battled back as an underdog to win a four-year term and reversed the Republican congressional gains of the 1946 elections. Holden argued there was no reason for Missouri Democrats to change leadership in 2004.

“I have been the governor that stood the test of time,” Holden said. “I have made the decisions that I believe are in the best interest of the state of Missouri.”

Like the Kansas City debate, the St. Louis debate was sponsored by local media. The debates did not include two other lesser-known Democratic gubernatorial candidates — Cole County Auditor Jim LePage, of Jefferson City, and suburban Kansas City resident Jeffery Emrick.

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