Wednesday, April 06, 2005

It would appear that the race in the 22nd is not over yet. Democrat Representative Rick Johnson, and Republican Bill Alter are separated by 66 votes. Alter has 6,861 votes (30.1%) and Johnson has 6,795 (29.8%).

The mood at Johnson's headquarters was subdued last night as the final precincts reported in and the separation between the two campaigns vote totals increased. Nevertheless, Johnson was optimistic as he addressed his staff and volunteers telling them that regardless of the outcome, he would continue, "working for the people of Jefferson County … on one side of [the capitol] building or the other."

At the moment the candidates are waiting to hear the results of hand recount of a sample of votes. The Democrats may also be pondering asking for a full recount which would happen later in the week.

A third candidate, Independent Harold Selby, may find himself the target of some Democratic ire. Even Selby admitted that he may end up being viewed as a stalking-horse. Selby decided to throw his hat in the ring to challenge Johnson. Selby has previously represented Jefferson County as a Democrat, but this time decided to run as an independent because he didn't believe Johnson accurately reflected the social fiber of Jefferson County.

That said, Selby himself told KWMU's Tom Weber that he was running on only one issue, the elimination of Missouri's emissions testing system. In a county where roads have played such a big role in political campaigns, it's no surprise Selby gained some great traction.

The Johnson campaign, however, must have been surprised by Selby's effectiveness. Selby was able to gather 6,272 (27.5%) of the total vote. Despite Sen. John Edwards and some of Missouri's top Democrats coming out to stump for Johnson, Selby's campaign was able to draw enough Democratic votes to cause a split, allowing the Republican challenger to squeeze through.

The race isn't officially over yet, however, so there may yet be a new twist in this already strange race.

- Murphy

Monday, April 04, 2005

I noticed an interesting juxtaposition upon opening to the business page of the Post-Dispatch last week. On the left side of the page was a column by Martin Van Der Werf touting the more than 2 billion dollars in new investment in Missouri, while on the other side of the page was a story about Gov. Blunt's recent signing of a worker's comp revision that would limit workers access to compensation.
The St. Louis area is on the verge of a construction boom unlike any seen in perhaps two decades, with contracts for a plethora of large projects about to be awarded.

Overall, construction employment hours have been growing at about 5 percent a year, but it is the size of the projects and the number that will be going up simultaneously that are remarkable.

Martin Van Der Werf,
St. Louis Post-Dispatch,

"Companies that are in Missouri will look at Arkansas and Oklahoma and determine quickly that they can realize real savings in their workers' compensation costs by moving to one of those other states."

Gov. Matt Blunt

And a quick look back to Gov. Blunt's State of the State speech…
”My budget calls for significant reductions in spending for some state agencies and programs. It demands that state government live within the people's means, with no new job-destroying taxes that harm working families and diminish future economic opportunities.“

”High workers' compensation insurance premiums are costing Missouri jobs. In 2003, premiums increased by 13.8 percent. These premiums detract from an employers' ability to reinvest and grow his or her business and to hire new workers. Some Missouri companies have discovered that they can realize significant workers' compensation savings by moving to a neighboring state.”

Gov. Matt Blunt,
State of the State Address,
January 26, 2005.

These are two of the three big points Republicans use to sell themselves as pro-business and pro-growth. Tax cuts, reduced workers rights and the third, mentioned elsewhere in the State of the State speech, reducing individuals access to courts (via liability lawsuit restrictions).

Yet billions of dollars in business investment do not appear overnight. SLU's research facility has been on the drawing board for years, as well as the $750 million cement plant (which had been held-up for quite some time due to environmental concerns).

If the previous Democrat-controlled governments in Missouri were crushing the future of job growth in Missouri through taxation and litigation, why have businesses been planning on spending billions in Missouri? The St. Louis area alone has seen hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in investment despite continuous claims that taxes and red tape are killing growth prospects.

The Republican party changed its anti-tax argument from a moral issue into a business issues during the 1980's. Despite the fact that the U.S. not only has had the lowest tax rate of any industrialized nation, but during the same time period created greater wealth than the world has ever seen. Unreasonable tax burdens are a bad idea in anyone's book, but the taxation bogeyman that Republicans like to trot out to scare people into accepting their other policies (eliminating services that not only help those in need, but also contribute to a better business environment) is nothing more than a smokescreen. Accross the country, states are realizing that they can not function without revenue and even those governors and legislators who pledged fidelity to the anti-tax crusade are realizing the fiscal reality.

Until there can be a more common-sense and economically driven discussion about taxes, the Republicans will continue to cloak their ideology in "tax-relief".

- Murphy

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Over at the Commonspace Blog, they are reporting that former 3rd District congressional candidate Jeff Smith has been knocking on doors for School Board Candidate Jeff Keaveny. It's an interested pairing, but I must admit that after spending some time talking with Mr. Keaveny I was impressed by his background and his strong desire to cut through the clutter. A point he repeatedly made was that communication is the key in creating any future for the school system. His legal and financial background will give the board an edge in dealing with the complex financial issues. As he said he spends all day managing money for very rich people. You start losing their money, well, there will be little debate just a nice pink slip on your desk.

He doesn't seem to be someone out for glory, but a determined and thoughtful individual. He is certainly doing well for himself and his family and there is little to be gained by wading into the school board debacle unless you truly want to try and help.

If he is elected, I think he will serve admirably.

- Murphy

Saturday, April 02, 2005

For those who have been trying to follow the Social Security debacle that has taken up enormous amounts of President Bush's time and political capital: The Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert (R-Ill) has for all intents and purposes declared the initiative dead. Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo has the relevant info.

Hastert, who recently made a local appearance in St. Louis for the NCAA Wrestling Championship, says he would have liked to see the as-yet-undefined reform plan for Social Security passed this year, but said it will most likely have to wait until next year.

For a President re-elected with a self-described mandate and political capital to burn, this must be a blow. The President is in the middle of barnstorming around the country trying to drum up support for his Social Security ideas and Hastert's verdict must have resulted in a few raised voices on Air Force One.

The President has been waiting for months for a Congressman to throw himself upon the sword and actually write out a social security privatization plan. The White House believed they could put the ideas out there and at some point someone would propose a plan that the President could endorse or back away from depending on how it played with the voters.

Not surprisingly, the Congress was waiting for the President, while the President waited for Congress; the two parties staring at each other, each one ready to take credit for the other's bold action.

Instead, nothing.

The White House lost what it cynically thought would be its most ardent supporters, the retired and those near-to retirement, right off the bat. Then, once the basic details of the idea were out there, they lost the support of most everyone else, except those who had too closely aligned themselves politically with the President. Everyone else was out of the office when the President came knocking.

This campaign is not over, however. The President still has stumps to stand on, but we can expect a change in the language. The White House is nothing if not an excellent political machine and they know how to turn back into the wind and recover a bit of ground.

Even still, I think the privatization plan is as dead in the water as when it began.

It will be interesting to see how much capital the President has left. He said he intended to spend it, and spend it he did. A second-term President only has so much time before people stop paying attention. You have to use that time wisely and decide which issues are worth investing in. Pick the wrong one, and you may find you have a little less weight to throw around, the parties are already taking bets on 2008.

- Murphy