Archive for the ‘Republicans’ Category

Wasinger is best choice for MO state auditor

Dual attorney/CPA skill sets will help unseat incumbent Democrat

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The Unablogger

Four Republicans are vying for the right to take on State Auditor Nicole Galloway, the last remaining Democrat holding statewide state office in Missouri. Voters elected Republican Tom Schweich state auditor the last time the office appeared on the ballot, but his death enabled Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon to flip the office with the stroke of a pen. He appointed fellow Democrat Galloway to fill the vacancy. She is unopposed in the Democratic primary for a full term.

Republicans want the office back, and it is important for them to win it. The state auditor is in the line of succession to become governor to fill a vacancy, ahead of both the state treasurer and attorney general. In addition, a ballot initiative misnamed “Clean Missouri,” if passed by voters in November, would give the state auditor an important new role in redistricting.  A Republican auditor could prevent Democratic gerrymanders like those that took place after every census from 1930 through 2000, but a Democrat like Galloway could turn those reins back over to her party, in spite of most Missouri voters now voting Republican.

Perhaps most important, the strength or weakness of the Republican nominee for state auditor could also affect this year’s other statewide contest, the nationally crucial race for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Claire McCaskill.

All four GOP candidates for auditor offer excellent professional qualifications, and all four are endorsed by the Missouri Right to Life PAC; but Republicans need to nominate their very best. In a prior post (which I encourage you to read if you haven’t yet), I explained why Republicans should not nominate Saundra McDowell, whose law degree, military service and professional experience would likely be overshadowed by her residency problem and $55,000 in court judgments against her. These problems are largely unpublicized.

Kevin Roach is an attorney and an alderman in Ballwin. His walk across the state (from Ballwin to Warrensburg) to persuade the University of Central Missouri to make its budget public was impressive, even scoring a write-up by popular St. Louis Post Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan. But Roach’s resume and experience are thin compared to his opponents, and his fundraising has been the weakest of the four.

Paul Curtman is a term-limited state representative from Union. He has been a favorite of the St. Louis Tea Party from the beginning of his political career, and some friends whom I respect support him in this contest. Curtman emphasizes his leadership and experience as a four-term legislator. He notes that Galloway has failed to exercise leadership in favor of legislation fixing problems her audits mentioned, and he promised to fill that leadership void and work with the legislature to craft solutions. Curtman was one of just a handful of legislators to refuse to sign the petition for a special session to consider impeachment of then-Gov. Eric Greitens, a stand that could hurt his chances in November. Curtman is a veteran and a financial adviser, but is neither an attorney nor a certified public accountant (CPA).

Ever since 1970, when a young Republican lawyer named Kit Bond took on Missouri’s Democrat good-ole-boy establishment and upset State Auditor Haskell Holman, every state auditor, whether elected or appointed, has possessed the professional credentials of either an attorney, a CPA or both. Voters expect and demand that level of professionalism for this office. Galloway herself is a CPA. David Wasinger is the only Republican candidate who is a CPA. He is also an attorney. He utilized both skill sets when he represented a whistle blower against the Countrywide Home Loans unit of Bank of America over shoddy mortgage and related securities that helped precipitate the 2008 financial crisis.. A Manhattan-based assistant U.S. attorney credited Wasinger (whom she described as “a very dogged and determined lawyer”) with drafting a solid complaint that got “the government’s foot in the door.” Wasinger’s lawsuits helped the federal government recoup over $18 billion in penalties for American taxpayers. (This 2014 Reuters article provides a detailed look at these lawsuits and Wasinger personally.)

Wasinger is the only Republican candidate who has raised any significant campaign funds. He has raised over $877,000 as of June 30, including $500,000 of his own money. Even without counting his own contributions, he has raised nearly four times as much as all of his Republican foes combined. Democrat Galloway starts off with over a million dollars in the bank. Wasinger is the only Republican capable of raising the funds needed to wage a successful challenge.

Wasinger’s dual attorney/CPA credentials and skill sets will be attractive to voters in the general election and useful in that office. That, together with his principled conservatism, impeccable ethics and successful fundraising make him the best candidate in a strong field. I endorse David Wasinger for state auditor.

My judgment is validated by like endorsements from leading Missouri conservatives. They include former Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder (who was my choice for Missouri governor in 2016), who reliably had the Tea Party’s back, even when that wasn’t cool; Senate President pro tem and former House Speaker Ron Richard of Joplin; Assistant Senate Majority leader Dr. Bob Onder of Lake St. Louis, a conservative leader in the senate (and my allergist); and State Reps. Kathy Swan of Cape Girardeau, Dean Plocher of St. Louis County and Rocky Miller of Osage Beach. Not surprisingly he also has the support of St. Louis County Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger.

I am not unbiased in making this endorsement. David Wasinger has been a friend of mine for nearly 30 years. But my admitted bias also offers a unique perspective on his candidacy. In numerous conversations over the years he has demonstrated that he is a principled conservative. I know him to be honest, capable, ethical, religious and professional. I know from experience that he is the real deal.

Republicans need a strong, qualified candidate to challenge incumbent Galloway and have a positive impact on the U.S. Senate race. David Wasinger is that guy.

 

 

 

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Doubts about McDowell’s auditor candidacy

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The Unablogger

At last week’s forum for Republican candidates for Missouri state auditor, all four  candidates made very credible appearances, and all four also practiced Ronald Reagan’s famous 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any other Republican candidate. Unfortunately, this welcome display of civility deprived Republican primary voters of information about how one of them could be especially vulnerable to Democrat attacks in the general election.

An internet search uncovered a Columbia Tribune article about candidate Saundra McDowell that makes me wary of her candidacy.  The article states that Mrs. McDowell has $55,000 in judgments against her and that her Missouri residency may fall short of the ten years required to hold the office.

The judgments, according to the article, are for unpaid rent and failure to pay a promissory note from  a private law practice she and her husband conducted from 2010 to 2014. Two months after the article was published (and shortly after the deadline for filing for office), another repercussion of that law practice materialized when the Missouri Supreme Court suspended the license of her husband and law partner, Jonathan McDowell, indefinitely, with no right to apply for reinstatement for one year. The St. Louis Record, a legal newspaper, reported that the suspension was due to his failure to timely file in state court, costing an airline pilot his employment discrimination case.

Incurring judgments for debt speaks poorly of a candidate’s financial acumen, which is important for a financially-related office like auditor. The licensure problems apparently belong solely to Mrs. McDowell’s husband, and apparently involved negligence and malpractice, not dishonesty. Nevertheless, these facts would sound terrible when packaged in a vicious Democrat attack ad that could cripple Republican chances to win the office if she would become the nominee.

The residency issue is more complex.  Mrs. McDowell first registered to vote in Missouri in 2010, only eight years ago. According to the Tribune,  Mrs. McDowell claims that her Missouri residence began earlier when she met her St. Louis husband in law school and decided that they would marry and make their home in Missouri after school. She cites the “intent” element of residency that the Missouri Supreme Court relied on in upholding Kit Bond’s right to be a candidate for governor in 1972, after having attended law school and then been employed outside the state. Bond, however, had been a Missourian prior to going away to school and maintained his voter registration in Missouri the entire time. Mrs. McDowell had been a resident of Oklahoma when she went away to school, residing temporarily in Virginia when she met her husband and formed her intent to move here. While one can arguably self-identify as a woman to use the women’s rest room in Target, self-identifying as a Missourian two years before moving here may not satisfy the residency requirements. In any case, valuable campaign resources and time would be wasted by the inevitable post-primary challenge to her residency.

Other than the Tribune article, which appeared in February, before filing for office had even begun, I can find no main-stream media coverage of these issues concerning Mrs. McDowell. That’s not surprising. Pro-Democrat media have no desire or intention to inform Republican voters prior to a primary election. For example, in 2002 the St. Louis Post Dispatch made no mention of a Republican primary candidate’s felony conviction until the day after the primary, which the flawed candidate won. Then it became front-page news. The timing made it clear that the Post knew and consciously concealed the damaging information until it was too late for Republican primary voters to react.

With voters in the dark, Mrs. McDowell could win the primary. She is photogenic, personable, and has relevant experience to be a qualified candidate. But Republicans should not risk subjecting their ticket to the vicious attack ads that her nomination would foster, especially when there are better alternatives: all three of her three primary opponents (in ballot order, Kevin Roach, David Wasinger and Paul Curtman) are quite capable and, to the best of my knowledge, lack that kind of baggage. I think one of those candidates stands out above the others, and I will write about that in my next post.

Sanctimonious bipartisan grandstanding

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State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D-University City)’s ill advised late-night Facebook response to a friend, expressing a desire for the assassination of President Trump, has presented politicians of all stripes a golden opportunity to lay claim to the moral high ground. They uniformly criticize her, which is fair and proper, but most also take the extra step of calling for her resignation and/or expulsion from the state senate.

Before getting to a rational discussion of the senator’s post, I want to call out those who are opportunistically piling on. Republicans calling for her resignation and/or expulsion, including Gov. Eric Greitens and Lt. Gov. Mike Parsons, are acting partisan, seeking to deflect some of the negative press coverage aimed at President Trump over to a high-profile Democrat. Some might say they also want to remove a Democrat vote from the senate for a while, but Republicans already hold a prohibitive senate majority even with Sen. Chappelle-Nadal in place.

Democrats calling for the senator’s ouster, including U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill and U.S Rep. Lacy Clay (both D-MO), emit a different, but equally foul, odor. McCaskill, whom CNN (I know, fake news) has tabbed as the nation’s most vulnerable Democratic senator up for reelection next year, is desperately trying to portray herself as a fair, even-handed, moderate, even bi-partisan public servant. Her record, especially her repeated votes to block debate on even the most sensible changes to the fatally flawed Obamacare legislation, contradicts that phony image. She sees piling on the controversial, outspoken Chappelle-Nadal as a low-risk high-reward ploy. From Claire it’s a cheap shot.

Clay has payback on his mind. Chappelle-Nadal challenged Clay unsuccessfully for renomination to his otherwise safe congressional seat last year, and Clay is jumping on the opportunity to destroy her credibility in case of a rematch.

The bipartisan piling on worsens a trend that is harming political discourse. Bullies on the left insist that everyone criticize President Trump’s inclusion of the alt-left in blame for the Charlottesville incident, identifying anyone who applies even the slightest nuance, or even remains silent, to be a Nazi! Now politicians are acting similarly towards anyone who dares to defend Chappelle-Nadal. This process intimidates rational discussion.

Nuance is good.

Now the promised rational discussion of Chappelle-Nadal’s post. What should happen is already in progress. The U.S. Secret Service is investigating the incident. They will examine her intent and the possibility that her post might inspire others to take action. I personally believe that Chappelle-Nadal’s post was merely an emotional outburst of hyper-partisanship with no intent either to cause or inspire actual harm to the President, but that’s not my call. If the Secret Service determines that her post is worthy of charges being brought against her, then her resignation and/or expulsion becomes appropriate. Opportunistic politicians jumping the gun and calling for such actions before then are wrong.

Yes, Chappelle-Nadal is being justifiably criticized for her remarks. But calls for her resignation and/or expulsion are not justified at this point.

Hostility to women not responsible for Wagner’s withdrawal

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Consistent with the mainsteam media’s continuing campaign to paint the Republican Party as inhospitable to women, Roll Call published a Nathan Gonzales column blaming perceived GOP hostility to women for the withdrawal of Congresswoman Ann Wagner from consideration for the GOP nomination to oppose Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill’s reelection next year. Gonzales is wrong.

Wagner was justifiably concerned about two sources of opposition to her candidacy within her party. The first and best known, and touched on by Gonzales, is the effort by establishment party elders like former Sen. Jack Danforth (generally regarded as the father of the 1970s Republican revival in Missouri) to get newly elected Attorney General Josh Hawley into the race instead of Wagner. Sam Fox, a major Missouri Republican donor and Danforth ally, had publicly urged Republican donors to hold off donating to any senate contenders until Hawley decided whether to enter the contest. That put a slight crimp in Wagner’s impressive early fundraising. Danforth and Fox’s motives were not sexist; they were based on concerns that Wagner might not be a strong enough candidate to beat McCaskill, or at least not as strong as Hawley would be. Hawley led the Republican ticket last year with 58.5% of the vote in the first statewide Republican sweep in Missouri in nearly a century. It is important for Republicans, both in Missouri and nationally, to take down McCaskill in 2018, important enough to go with their best shot, not just good enough to get it done with no margin of error. That’s how the establishment thinks, and in this case it makes sense.

The second and less publicized source of concern was vocal opposition to Wagner from the Tea Party faction. While Wagner scores relatively well on national measures of conservatism (88% American Conservative Union rating for 2016, but only 63% on the Heritage Action scorecard), the Tea Party is angered by her actions and votes designed to benefit Big Business donors at the expense of fiscal responsibility, a core Tea Party value. Wagner’s vote to save the Export-Import Bank is an example. The Tea Party regards Wagner and Sen. Roy Blunt as part of the pay-to-play swamp that President Trump wants to drain.

Another possible GOP senate contender, especially if dream candidate Hawley opts out, is Rep. Vicky Hartzler from western Missouri. I have heard no Tea Party complaints about Hartzler, who sports an excellent 2016 ACA rating of 96, although she scores only slightly better than Wagner on the Heritage Action scorecard with 69%. If any sexism exists towards Missouri Republican women, it rests with Gonzales, who indirectly dismissed Hartzler by calling Wagner “the GOP’s . . . only top-tier female hopeful,” even though Hartzler has won more elections and served longer in Congress than Wagner. Hartzler won her seat in the Tea Party revolt of 2010, prevailing over a tough primary field before unseating venerable 34-year incumbent Rep. Ike Skelton. At the time, Skelton was chair of the House Armed Services Committee.

Like the establishment elders, the Tea Party opposition to Wagner has nothing to do with gender; unlike the establishment elders, it has everything to do with policy concerns. While the establishment is quite comfortable with Wagner’s policies, the Tea Party is not.

Quick observations of 2016 election returns

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The Unablogger

Outsiders win (mostly). The upset wins by President-elect Donald Trump, Governor-elect Eric Greitens and Attorney General-elect Josh Hawley demonstrated that the attraction of political outsiders did not end with the primaries. Voters wanted change, and they’ll get it, although both Trump and Greitens will be tested by their legislatures, including those from their own party.

Things were different in congressional races. In spite of Congress’ historically low approval ratings, only seven incumbent U.S. House members and two senators lost their seats last month. In Missouri, Sen. Roy Blunt won re-election in a race he was expected to lose, and all eight congressmen won re-election easily, albeit against underfunded challengers. All but one of the Missouri congressional contests produced a greater share for the Republican candidate (whether incumbent or challenger) than in the last presidential election in 2012 (including Jason Smith, whose 2012 total was earned by his popular predecessor, Jo Ann Emerson). The exception was Republican Ann Wagner, who trailed her 2012 share even though she didn’t have the benefit of incumbency back then, when she was first elected. Wagner generated resentment from Trump loyalists when she unendorsed Trump after the release of the Billy Bush video, but her congressional district was also the one Missouri district where Trump ran behind Mitt Romney’s 2012 pace.

Robin Smith’s candidacy was a dud. Well-known former television news anchor Robin Smith, a Democrat, was expected to run a decent campaign for Missouri Secretary of State. Democratic party leaders, paying homage to identity politics, had discouraging all but token primary opposition so she could be in a position to become the first African American elected to statewide office. While her general election opponent, Republican Jay Ashcroft, enjoyed the good will attached to his namesake father, popular former Gov. and Sen. John Ashcroft, the younger Ashcroft’s own electoral record was not good. His only prior stab at elective office was in 2014, a very Republican year, when he lost an open St. Louis County state senate seat then held by a Republican. Smith’s candidacy was actively publicized by the St. Louis American, St. Louis’ leading weekly newspaper primarily serving the African American community. While 2016 turned out to be a difficult year for Missouri Democrats, that fails to explain how poorly she fared compared to other Democrats on the ticket. Among the seven statewide Democratic candidates, Smith’s vote percentage was next to last, not only statewide but also in both St. Louis City and County, where Smith was best known.

A possible lesson here is that St. Louis voters have not reacted well to former news personalities seeking public office. Former KSDK reporter Mike Owens won less than 33% in a 2012 Democratic primary for state representative in a contest in which he was the only white, with two black candidates splitting the rest of the vote, and running with the support of his wife, influential Alderman (and possible future mayor) Lyda Krewson and her effective ward organization. Also, back around 1980, former KSDK anchor Bob Chase, a Republican, lost twice running for Congress in St. Louis County.

Paying the price for guessing wrong on Trump. Before Trump’s surge following the announced reopening of the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton, establishment Republicans tried to distance themselves from a nominee they regarded as a sure loser. They portrayed their decisions not to endorse their party’s standard bearer as a matter of principle, but everyone knew they thought that’s what they needed to do to save their own hides. Well, they guessed wrong about Trump, and many of them paid the price they were trying to avoid. Both incumbent Republican U.S. Senators and four of the six incumbent Republican congressmen to lose re-election, as well as the losing Republican who had the best chance to win a Democrat-held senate seat, were candidates who at some point (after the primaries) publicly rejected Trump. Rep. Ann Wagner of St. Louis County, who, as noted above, retracted her endorsement of Trump (though later announced she would vote for him), easily won re-election to her safe Republican seat, but was Missouri’s only Republican congressional candidate to get a lower share of the vote this year than in 2012.

Peter Kinder is most electable choice for MO governor

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The Unablogger

You wouldn’t know it from all the negative ads, but the Republican primary for Missouri governor offers four excellent, conservative choices to succeed lame duck Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon. Early on, I settled on Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder as my likely first choice, followed closely by former Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway. Former Navy Seal (and former Democrat) Eric Greitens has the support of many conservatives whose opinions I respect. Businessman John Brunner rubs me the wrong way, but I would still happily support him in the general election if he wins the primary. All of them would be better than likely Democrat nominee, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, an insincere and opportunistic former Republican and Nixon protege.

I had leaned to Kinder because he was both a proven conservative and a proven winner. He repeatedly earned his conservative chops by having the Tea Party’s back when others shied away. That’s why St. Louis Tea Party Coalition co-founder Dana Loesch (now a television personality for Glenn Beck’s The Blaze) has endorsed Kinder and recorded radio ads for him. Rush Limbaugh’s endorsement is also a plus, but partially explained by his and Kinder’s childhood friendship in Cape Girardeau. Kinder (like Hanaway and Brunner but not Greitens) is endorsed by Missouri Right to Life. The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (click “Statewide” tab) endorsed no gubernatorial candidate, but rated Kinder highest at A+. (Hanaway’s record earned her an A (not the D rating claimed by one false negative ad), while Brunner and Greitens, who have no elective record, got the AQ rating based on their questionnaires.)

Some question Kinder’s character because of a well publicized photograph of him with an exotic dancer with whom he had a brief relationship, but Kinder was not married or otherwise in a committed relationship, so that shouldn’t matter. There were also some questionable hotel expenditures billed to the state early in his tenure as lieutenant governor, but he reimbursed the state completely and has not repeated the practice since. In 2012, both Republican primary challenger, State Sen. Brad Lager, and Democrat general election foe, former State Auditor Susan Montee, pounded Kinder with negative ads on both matters, but Kinder defeated both challengers. The general election win was especially impressive, because Kinder overcame not just the formidable Montee but also a third-party challenge on the right from former Missouri House Minority Whip Cynthia Davis. Kinder’s win was also notable because he won while every other statewide Republican candidate (except Presidential nominee Mitt Romney) lost. Kinder is a proven general election winner.

Today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch published the details of a professional Mason-Dixon poll taken July 23-24, which confirm my expectations of Kinder’s general election strength. The headline shows that Kinder, while running fourth, is nevertheless within the margin of error for the win, with 17% still undecided. Buried on the inside page, though, were important trial heats against Koster.While Koster led all four Republicans in a poll skewed Democratic (see below), he led Kinder by just a single point, while Brunner lost by 6, Hanaway by 16 and Greitens by an astounding 22 points. This has to be sobering for Greitens supporters like my friend Bill Hennessy, who have touted Greitens as the only Republican likely to beat Koster. It must also be sobering for Democrats who, in coordination with the Koster campaign, have just spent around a million dollars trashing Greitens with ads that mostly ran after the poll was taken.

The poll also sampled favorability ratings, with Kinder on top with net favorability (favorable minus unfavorable) of +20, followed by Brunner (+10), Hanaway (+5) and Greitens (-3). Kinder was the only one to top Koster (+17).

It should be noted that both the trial heats and favorability ratings were skewed against all Republicans, because the sample was evenly divided between likely Republican and Democrat primary voters, apparently with no true independents. Since 2000, the actual November electorate has been much more Republican.

The past four years have demonstrated the importance of electability. Republican majorities in both houses of the General Assembly have passed landmark conservative reforms which Democrat Nixon vetoed. While Republicans were able to override some vetoes, vetoes of other key legislation, like right-to-work, stood. Maintaining two-thirds majorities is difficult and unreliable; getting a like-minded governor to sign legislation passed with just a simple majority is easier and more reliable. But you don’t get a principled Republican governor unless he defeats Koster.

I endorse Peter Kinder for Missouri Governor.

Hillary dodges a bullet. So does Trump

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The Unablogger

FBI Director James Comey’s conclusion that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton should not be prosecuted, in spite of her careless disregard for the safety of confidential information entrusted to her, saves Clinton’s presidential campaign. If he had recommended prosecution, as he could have and should have, the same Democrats who rigged the nominating process to make her the party standard bearer would have intervened and forced her to step aside. Or, failing that, the very super delegates who put her over the top would have revolted against her, allowing Democratic convention delegates to pick someone else. Even deliberate inaction by the Department of Justice and a presidential pardon wouldn’t have saved Hillary.

But Hillary isn’t the only presidential candidate whose hopes were revived by Comey’s actions. Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump also got a campaign lifeline from Comey. Trump has the worst unfavorable numbers  for any presidential candidate in polling history. The only reason Trump is even competitive in this contest is Clinton’s own unfavorable rating. If Democrats were able to substitute a less unpopular Democrat – say Vice-President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (or even Bernie Madoff or O. J. Simpson!), they could count on coasting to a 40+ state win, a Democratically controlled senate and maybe even a Democrat house.

But Comey changed all that. By laying out, in convincing detail, how Hillary broke the law and endangered national security in the process, but holding back on a recommendation to prosecute, Comey saved Trump’s hide too.

Democrats have noticed. With apologies to William Shakespeare, something is rotten in the state of the mainstream media. The usual Democrat sycophants are suddenly turning on Hillary. The Washington Free Beacon compiled this video montage of Democrat media talking heads piling on Clinton in her time of supposed triumph. De facto Democrat press spokesmen like the New York Times, Washington Post, Politico, and St. Louis Post Dispatch piled on. This is no sudden discovery of press fairness. They are loyal Democrats who want to shape the Democratic ticket with candidates who will win. They want Clinton out.

Stay tuned.