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McCaskill praises Skelton, hints Missouri National Guard should have his back

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 19, 2010 - U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., called on the Missouri National Guard over the weekend to be alert to the election challenges facing U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Lexington, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee.

"Missouri has no idea how lucky we are to have Ike Skelton,'' McCaskill said, at the end of an address Saturday to members of the Missouri National Guard Association at its annual conference, held over the weekend at the Airport Marriott hotel.

After speaking for about 20 minutes about the importance of the Guard and her recent overseas trip to the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, McCaskill veered into territory that she acknowledged to her audience could be interpreted as political.

McCaskill praised Skelton's pro-military stance and said he is committed to making sure that National Guard troops -- especially those deployed overseas in hot spots -- are not short-changed by the nation's other armed services.

As a Missouri congressman, she continued, Skelton is particularly attuned to the Guard troops in his home state. She also cited his 35-year congressional record as a socially conservative Democrat.

"He's somebody who's independent, somebody who respects Missouri values," she said, adding that he regularly disagrees with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. -- who just happens to be a favorite conservative target,.

Even so, McCaskill said that national Republicans are out to oust him this fall. "They're going to come after Ike," the senator said. "It hurts my heart."

Skelton, in office since 1977 in western Missouri's 4th District, is arguably the biggest GOP congressional target in Missouri this year. Ten Republicans have filed for his seat, along with one Democrat.

The best-known and best-financed Republicans are Vicky Jo Hartzler and Bill Stouffer. But last week's campaign reports showed that Skelton, for the moment, has amassed a huge financial edge.

And according to a recent account in the St. Louis Business Journal, Skelton is getting a lot of help from some prominent St. Louisans, including Boeing's political action committee.

Here's the latest numbers for the three biggest money-raisers, according to their reports filed last Thursday:


Raised: $1,537,622

Spent: $507,479

On hand: $1,232,078


Raised: $396,785

Spent: $100,665

On hand: $296,119

Debt: $105,000


Raised: $391,163

Spent: $120,359

On hand: $270,803

Debt: $50,000

UPDATE: Monday afternoon, Skelton offered words of praise for the Obama administration's efforts that apparently contributed to the deaths over the weekend of the two top leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

As reported by the Washington publication, The Hill: "The chairman, who has at times clashed with the Obama administration's position on the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy against gays in the military, commended it for working to root out terrorist groups in the Middle East.

"Under President Obama, we have stepped up the fight against terrorists, capturing or killing hundreds of al Qaeda’s fighters and their affiliates in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen — including the most significant captures of Afghan Taliban leaders since the start of the war in Afghanistan," he said.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.