Missouri Democrats look for ways to revitalize party for ’06

Wednesday, November 24, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:47 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — In the aftermath of the Democratic losses in Missouri on Election Day three weeks ago, top Missouri Democratic leaders met Tuesday to discuss the future of the party.

In January, Democrats will hold two fewer statewide offices, three fewer Senate seats and seven fewer House seats.

Democratic Chairman Roger Wilson said the Democratic Party is hoping to increase its numbers in the House of Representatives and in the Senate in 2006 and to re-elect Claire McCaskill as state auditor. McCaskill, who lost to Republican Matt Blunt in the governor’s race, has said she will not seek the governorship again.

“Everyone seemed really energized and ready to progress to the 2006 elections,” Wilson said of Tuesday’s gathering. He would not say who or how many people attended the meeting of “top Democratic leaders.”

He said the focus was to discuss how to accomplish those goals, but as of yet, no specific strategies have been devised.

McCaskill, who attended the meeting, said when coming up with a strategy for 2006, something the Democratic Party should look at is the way the party formulates its message.

“Most importantly, we need to work on how we address issues that are not only important to voters but Democrats as well,” McCaskill said.

McCaskill said Republicans were successful in using social issues as a way to heighten the emotional level of their support base because Democrats made the assumption that voters knew where they stood on such issues as the institution of marriage and abortion.

“There is a tendency for Democrats to not talk about their faith and value-centered issues,” McCaskill said.

“I think it is important to get these messages across,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Maida Coleman, who attended the meeting, said Republicans used social-wedge issues as instruments of terror and doom” to win the election.

“It is the oldest trick in the book,” she said.

Coleman said it is only a matter of time before voters see that the goals and principles of the Democratic Party are much more in line with those of manyAmericans.

“The Republican Party engaged in what I believe was fear-mongering and intolerance to win this election, and extremism of any form is not tolerated long in America,” Coleman said.

Coleman said the Democratic Party needs to remain strong in its belief that it is doing the right thing ethically, morally and socially. And it is that persistence, she said, that will bring voters back over time.

“I predict that within the next four years, a vast majority of people who voted Republican this year will thump their foreheads and say ‘What was I thinking?’” she said.

Wilson said the Democrats will work with Republicans to continue to represent the interests of Missourians throughout the state. Wilson said he intends to stay on as chairman of the state Democratic Party.

“It will be a major adjustment this legislative session to work as the minority, but we will work to make that transition as quickly and smoothly as we can,” Wilson said.

In any case, McCaskill said, voters should not mourn the death of the Democratic Party just yet.

“Anyone who is saying the coffin is nailed on the Democratic Party is going to be surprised because that is definitely not the case,” McCaskill said. “The Democrats have a very strong message, and as long as we work together to better portray that message to voters, the Democrats will once again see victory in this state.”

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