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UPDATED: Hanaway returns to GOP politics to aid Blunt in U.S. Senate contest

At the "Women for Roy Blunt" event
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Beacon | 2010

Former Missouri House Speaker/U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway, who's now a lawyer working with the Ashcroft Group, helped launch Monday a "Women for Roy Blunt'' coalition aimed at promoting the U.S. Senate bid of the southwest Missouri congressman.

Hanaway will cohost the coalition, along with Renee Hulshof, a radio-show host in Columbia, Mo., and the wife of former U.S. Rep. (and unsuccessful 2008 gubernatorial nominee) Kenny Hulshof.

"Women for Blunt" type groups have become a staple for male candidates. It's particularly important for Blunt, since his Democratic rival, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, is a woman.

Hanaway also acknowledged at the coalition's kickoff event in west St. Louis County that she offers a unique perspective.

Hanaway, a Republican was Missouri's first woman speaker of the House and was a powerful force in Jefferson City in 2003-04. She often was at odds with then-Gov. Bob Holden, a Democrat, before leaving to make an unsuccessful bid for secretary of state in 2004 against Carnahan.

"I'm the only woman who has run against Robin Carnahan,'' Hanaway said.

Afterward, Hanaway said in an interview that she has a healthy respect for Carnahan's political prowess, even while disagreeing with her politics.

Hanaway told the kickoff audience of about 30 women that their job primarily will be to serve as "a great echo chamber'' to talk up Blunt's key campaign objectives and themes.

Hanaway also asserted that Blunt's experience in Washington -- derided by Democrats and Carnahan -- is a political plus.

Of five key issues that she declared are important women, Hanaway said that only Blunt has a voting record.

The issues: education, national security, public safety, health care, and jobs.

Hanaway asserted that Carnahan's basic stance on such issues are in line with President Barack Obama and Democratic congressional leaders.

For example, said Hanaway, women often have been the first to lose their jobs during the current recession. "If you want to kill jobs, vote for her. If you want to create jobs, vote for him,'' Hanaway said.

Blunt also focused on the economy, citing among other things his support for continuing the 10-year-old tax cuts instituted in 2001 under then-President George W. Bush. The cuts are set to expire at the end of this year; Democrats and Obama want to retain those aiding the middle-class, but want to eliminate the cuts benefiting Americans earning more than $250,000 a year.

Blunt told the women that the Democratic plan would increase taxes on almost half of small businesses -- many run by women -- that file their taxes as individuals. He also asserted that wealthier people and businesses who provide many jobs "will not create opportunity if there is no reward for the risk."

Such focus on women voters is not just talk for either candidate. Both sides acknowledge that women cast a majority of the votes in Missouri and nationwide. "We decide who wins elections,'' Wagner said.

A spokesman for Carnahan asserted later that Blunt;'s record is not in line with what most women want. "For the last 14 years in Washington, Congressman Blunt has fought for Big Oil, Wall Street, and their lobbyists while opposing equal pay for women, denying workers time off after they have had a child or are sick and undercutting important research to find life-saving cures to diseases like breast cancer."

Hanaway said she is committed to doing what she can to help Blunt. Shortly after losing to Carnahan, Hanaway was named by then-President George W. Bush to be Missouri's U.S. Attorney for the Eastern Region, a federal post she held until last year, when she left to join the law practice of former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Click here to read the Beacon's profile of Hanaway early last year, as she prepared to leave her federal post. And click here to read our account of her participation in a Webster University forum with Holden last fall.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.

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