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UPDATED: Sowers, Emerson both go negative in 8th District ad war

In the 8th District congressional contest, Democrat Tommy Sowers and Republican incumbent Jo Ann Emerson both have new TV ads on the air. Both spots go negative, which is unusual so far out before the Nov. 2 election.  

Candidates often wait until after Labor Day to take off the verbal gloves, in part because that's when voters are most likely to pay attention.

The ad attacks by Emerson and Sowers both fit in with their respective party line.

Sowers' ad (click here to view it) portrays Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, as a bailout backer, citing her votes for various measures helping troubled financial institutions and, most recently, union pension funds.

Said Sowers, from Rolla, in a statement: "Jo Ann Emerson publicly claims to be a small-government, fiscal conservative but has a history of supporting taxpayer-funded bailouts, whether they’re for Wall Street or poorly managed pensions. ... I don’t support bailouts and will work to renegotiate the job-killing trade deals that Jo Ann Emerson voted for."

The ad also seeks to highlight Sowers' military background, and portray him as a social conservative, which apparently is a must for any serious contender for the southeast Missouri seat. The ad is Sowers' second spot that shows him holding up his metal-clad military bible. And to give the spot masculine punch, the ad ends with a close-range view of Sowers firing a rifle.

Sowers' spokesman Jonathan Feifs says the campaign is spending at least $100,000 to air the spot on broadcast and cable stations throughout the southeast Missouri district.

Emerson's ad (click here) is her second spot, but the first one that takes on Sowers. Her ad also is playing throughout the district.

The ad calls Sowers "an Obama-Pelosi 'yes' man" who backed the federal health-care law.

The ad asserts that the changes will lead to "higher taxes, more spending'' and more government control. The latter argument apparently sidesteps the fact that Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Administration -- which provide care for a sizable chunk of the 8th District's population, one of the state's oldest and poorest -- are government health-care programs.

The congresswoman's ad makes clear where she stands: "Jo Ann Emerson fought the health-care bill and is working for repeal."

Since launching her latest spot, Emerson also has renewed her earlier line of attack that asserts Sowers is largely backed by out-of-district donors. She points to the fact that she has far more individual donors from inside the district. However, she also has collected far more money from political-action committees, which are generally tied to corporations or national special-interest groups.

Both candidates have conducted a number of out-of-district fund-raising events. The non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors campaign money, has conducted an analysis of both campaigns' finances.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.

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.