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Purgason makes Senate political pitch hours after his purge

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 13, 2010 - To read state Sen. Chuck Purgason's electronic campaign missive sent out just hours after Monday's ouster-heard-round-the-state, Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields did him a political favor by removing Purgason as head of the Senate Government Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee, to get the Ford tax-incentive bill back in play.

Purgason, R-Caulfield and a candidate for the U.S. Senate, contended that Shields "is using strong-arm tactics" because "I guess he doesn’t like the way I’m holding government accountable."

Purgason's comments were in line with his predictions last week of political punishment because of his refusal to allow the bill out of his committee, in effect killing the measure during this special session unless Shields acted quickly.

But Monday's release from his campaign also tied his purge to his political philosophy and his quest to defeat his party's favored candidate for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Springfield.

Purgason's target is clearly Tea Party activists and other fiscal conservatives.

Purgason continued to emphasize his objections to the bill, which would provide up to $15 million a year in state tax breaks -- much of it as an inducement to persuade Ford Motor Co. to retain its manufacturing plant near Kansas City that employs thousands.

"Even the bill name is a lie," said Purgason, referring to the official title of '"Manufacturing Jobs Act." "It doesn’t create jobs nor does it boost manufacturing in the state."

Purgason then went on to call it a "union-supported bill," compared that approach to "the right way as proven in the Reagan years with across-the-board tax cuts. We need to let true free enterprise work and not play favorites."

He asserted that Missouri is more likely to lose Ford because it is not "a right-to-work state,'' as is nearby Kentucky, which has open union shops, instead of Missouri's closed shops.

Purgason's email included a two-plus minute video, in which he likened his best-known Republican rival -- U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt -- to "Barack and Barney Frank,'' the latter a reference to the openly gay congressman from Massachusetts.

And Purgason ended with an appeal for campaign cash and support in the Aug. 3 primary, noting that he ranks 34th among the state's 24 state senators when it comes to gifts and donations from lobbyists.

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