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Clay calls for Democrats to defend record, has asked Michelle Obama to drop by

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 14, 2010 - U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, sounded cautiously optimistic Wednesday night that his party will retain control of Congress after Nov. 2 -- but he urged fellow Democrats to quit running away from President Barack Obama and the "nothing short of remarkable" achievements of the last two years.

"I don't understand why moderate candidates in my party are running away from him," Clay said during the Holden Public Policy Forum's latest "Pizza and Politics" event, held in the library at Webster University. Joining Clay was former Gov. Bob Holden, who emceed the event before a packed audience of students and local residents.

The stimulus spending kept the United States from falling into a depression, Clay said, while the new health-care law will protect people now at the mercy of insurance companies that knock them off their rolls or deny coverage.

(Clay blasted the insurance companies for raising rates in recent weeks, in what he asserted was an attempt to pressure the public to vote against the congressional Democrats who are trying to rein them in.)

Clay said Democrats also deserve praising for improving health-care coverage for veterans.

Clay didn't mention any names of the errant Democratic candidates. But he did say that he believed the Missouri Democratic Party's coordinated campaign has yet to do enough to reach out to minorities and young voters who went to the polls in 2008.

"I tell my party, 'Give people something to vote for,' " Clay said during the question-answer session. He cited the African-American community's concerns about jobs, education, health care and "the 20 percent unemployment in my district among African-American males."

"You need to speak to those needs," Clay said, noting that most African-Americans are strongly supportive of Obama.

The congressman said afterward that he's made a pitch to the White House to ask that Michelle Obama make a pre-election stop in St. Louis on behalf of Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Robin Carnahan. As Clay spoke, the wife of the president was in Chicago raising money for Illinois' Democratic U.S. Senate nominee.

With the president and his wife on the campaign trail, Clay said it was time for his fellow Democrats in Missouri and elsewhere to do the same "revving up the base vote."

"There is still time," the congressman said, observing that just under three weeks are left until election day.

Clay also exuded optimism about another issue -- Missouri's chances of retaining nine congressional seats after this year's census.

Although predictions are rampant that Missouri may lose a seat, Clay -- who headed the House panel in charge of the census -- said he believed that state and local officials worked hard to get accurate counts in their communities. The final census numbers, and the new congressional allocations to each state, are expected by the end of the year.

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.

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