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Purgason to Blunt: Pay attention to me, not Carnahan

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 3, 2009 - Missouri state Sen. Chuck Purgason says he's tired of being ignored by U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, as both Republicans seek their party's nomination for the U.S. Senate.

Purgason, R-Caulfield, sent out a statement late Wednesday asking why Blunt called for a joint news conference Thursday with the announced Democrat, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, to discuss their differences on health care.

"I can’t help but wonder why I was not invited to participate,'' Purgason said. "Could it be because my background is so strong in health care?"

Purgason accused Blunt is trying to "bypass the August primary election."

Purgason's complaint comes as Blunt, R-Springfield, has spent a lot of public effort lately blasting Carnahan for her views on expanding health care coverage, and for an anti-Blunt billboard campaign run by her allies.

The billboards posted in southwest Missouri play up the congressman's campaign contributions of more than $500,000 from health insurance companies during his career. Blunt has countered by highlighting Carnahan's smaller donation tally of about $10,000 from health-care lobbyists.

Carnahan generally has ignored Blunt's attacks -- one of the reasons his campaign accused her Wednesday of "issue dodging."

But Purgason fired off anti-Blunt jabs Wednesday that Democrats must love.

"It is unfortunate that when Congressman Blunt was in leadership -- at a time when our party was in charge of both the Senate, House and the office of the President -- that these issues were not front and center, but are now forcing all of us to battle back liberal efforts to totally change our choices that we have now in health care," Purgason said.

"In spite of his oversight, I would like to offer the following invitation to Congressman Blunt. I bring to the table thirteen years of working on health care issues. I would be happy to discuss health care issues with him in the very near future."

Purgason cited his experience in the state House and Senate on various committees dealing with health care, including stints as chairman. "My background has given me extensive experience with federal regulations and the roadblocks thrown in front of the states by the federal government," Purgason said. "I already know what we need to do to reform our health care."

Blunt is scheduled to be in St. Louis this morning for a joint news conference with U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, to highlight their opposition to the energy legislation known as cap-and-trade that passed the House several months ago.

No word on whether Purgason might show up as well.

Blunt shouldn't be surprised if the state senator is on hand if the congressman opts to hold a where's-Carnahan news conference later today in Jefferson City.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.