First, Claire has been barnstorming our state, holding 8 public town halls to directly face her constituents. In contrast, Missouri’s Republicans in Congress hid from their voters – not even holding a single town hall meeting. Second, Claire just announced that a surge in grassroots support and small donations has led to a record-breaking total of $2.8 million for the first financial quarter of 2017.
That’s more than any previous Missouri U.S. Senator or U.S. Senate candidate has ever raised during the first quarter of an off-year — and it really was a grassroots effort. More than 5,500 Missourians who have never donated to McCaskill contributed in the first three months of 2017. The average donation was $59 and 91% of donations were under $100.
Below you will find a couple stories about Claire’s town halls, along with some initial coverage of her record-breaking financial quarter.
As always, please let us know if you have any questions.
Have a great weekend!
McCaskill raises nearly $3 million as Trump roils Democratic base
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
By Adam Aton
A surge in new donors over the last three months has delivered a $2.8 million fundraising haul for Sen. Claire McCaskill, a spokesman for the Missouri Democrat said Thursday.
McCaskill will end the first quarter with more than $3 million in her campaign account. She is preparing to seek a third term from a state President Donald Trump won by about 19 percentage points.
McCaskill’s announcement came shortly after Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, a potential opponent in 2018, said she had raised about $800,000 in the first three months this year and had $2.8 million in the bank.
The large fundraising hauls for McCaskill — and her potential rivals — reflect how pivotal Missouri’s 2018 race will be. Republicans hope to flip one of the state’s last offices held by a Democrat and build on their 52-seat majority in the Senate.
Meanwhile, the early days of the Trump’s administration have shown signs that Democrats are upset, and ready to vote. Earlier this week Republicans watched a special election in one of Kansas’ reliably red congressional districts come down to the wire. Liberals hope next week’s special election in Georgia will flip a Republican-leaning seat where millions of dollars have poured in to support the Democratic candidate.
In Missouri, those forces have translated into fundraising totals that are more typical of a campaign’s final stretch than its beginnings. The last time McCaskill raised this much were the final months before her 2012 reelection.
McCaskill’s campaign said the past three months brought more than 5,500 new donors from Missouri. The average donation to McCaskill since the beginning of the year was $59, and nine-in-ten contributions were less than $100, according to the campaign.
One reason campaigns like small donors is they can contribute multiple times before hitting the federal limit of $2,700 — providing a well of support the candidate could potentially tap for the entire race.
Earlier this year, McCaskill predicted more than $200 million will be spent on Missouri’s Senate race, with most of that money coming from outside groups rather than the candidates.
Wagner’s first-quarter haul also demonstrated the network of donors she can tap as a past fundraiser for President George W. Bush and former chairwoman of the Missouri Republican Party.
Speculation about Wagner’s potential Senate candidacy gained steam earlier this month after she stepped down as vice chair of the House Republican’s campaign arm, another position that kept her on the donor circuit.
Attorney General Josh Hawley has also seen support from prominent state Republicans, with a letter urging him to run circulated this week by former Sen. John Danforth and former Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder.
Hawley, a political newcomer who was sworn in earlier this year, raised more than $4.2 million for his 2016 campaign. But that was before Missouri imposed campaign contribution limits, and he received several large donations that wouldn’t be permissible in a federal race. Hawley would also have to start a new campaign account if he decides to run.
Neither Wagner nor Hawley have announced their next moves. Tony Monetti, executive director of the Central Missouri Airport, has reportedly expressed interest in running for the seat as a Republican.
McCaskill greeted by support at town hall
By Jim Salter
In a year when congressional town hall meetings have often turned angry, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill saw a much friendlier response Wednesday as she launched a series of town halls in predominantly Republican areas of Missouri.
About 150 people, the vast majority of them McCaskill supporters, turned out at a community college in Hillsboro in eastern Missouri, greeting her with a standing ovation and often interrupting with applause. She plans seven subsequent meetings this week in potentially hostile counties where Donald Trump won easily in the presidential election, carrying Missouri with more than 65 percent of the vote.
The response was far different than what some of McCaskill’s Republican counterparts have heard from angry town hall crowds opposed to Trump’s early agenda. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham have been yelled at, heckled and booed. In Oklahoma, Rep. Markwayne Mullin canceled a Tuesday evening meeting at a high school in Tahlequah, citing unspecified “safety concerns.”
Many members of both houses of Congress are opting to connect with constituents by phone, social media and in controlled environments, rather than town halls.
McCaskill, 63, said hearing from constituents in person is vital.
“I will tell you even the most contentious town halls, I value them,” McCaskill said. “Seeing Missourians face-to-face and hearing their questions and concerns matters. It isn’t the same to do a telephone town hall. It isn’t the same doing a Facebook Live.”
The town hall did not include a microphone for attendees. Those wanting to ask questions submitted them prior to the event, and McCaskill read them. Near the end, she joked she was disappointed she hadn’t received any questions “from somebody who will never vote for me.”
McCaskill is among 10 Senate Democrats running in 2018 in states won by Trump. Republican Rep. Ann Wagner of suburban St. Louis is a likely contender for her seat, and Missouri’s newly elected 37-year-old Republican attorney general, Josh Hawley, is being urged to run by supporters who include longtime Republican Sen. John Danforth and prominent donor David Humphreys.
McCaskill told the crowd she expects tens of millions of dollars to be spent to try and unseat her.
“The dark money is going to flood in here,” McCaskill said.
Democrats face a tough battle in the Senate. Republicans already have a 52-48 majority and Democrats are defending 25 seats to the GOP’s eight. Republicans are hoping to win a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority.
McCaskill, first elected in 2006, acknowledged she is likely to be the underdog in her re-election bid, but said that’s nothing new. A year before her 2012 election, she said, “I was a dead woman walking in terms of my election chances.”
That was before her Republican opponent, Todd Akin, doomed his chances by telling a TV interviewer that women’s bodies have ways of preventing pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.”
McCaskill drew criticism from Republicans last week when she voted against confirmation of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. The Kansas City Star had released audio of her telling donors the decision was difficult because Gorsuch “was one of the better ones” among Trump’s possible picks to fill the seat vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016.
She told the Hillsboro crowd that the politically smart thing to do in largely conservative Missouri would have been to support Gorsuch. But she said she found portions of his record troubling.
Addressing possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, McCaskill urged caution until investigations are complete. She urged her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work together to fix health care. And she drew loud applause in expressing support for Planned Parenthood.
McCaskill’s Missouri counterpart, Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, has not hosted a town hall since the election. It wasn’t clear if he planned to do so. A spokesman did not return a phone message seeking comment.
By Eric Dundon
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill didn’t hesitate to criticize President Donald Trump at a town hall meeting in Hannibal on Thursday, April 13 at the Hannibal Nutrition Center.
Nor did Missouri’s Democratic Senator spare words when describing how, in her view, certain policies of the administration will negatively affect people in Northeast Missouri.
McCaskill, who is up for re-election in 2018, held the town hall as part of an eight-stop tour of the state to hear from her constituents. She is the only one of Missouri’s federal representatives to hold town hall tyle meetings during Congress’ two-week recess.
While taking opportunities to decry some of Trump’s — and his party’s — decisions, she also answered questions about her own actions, particularly on her recent vote to oppose the confirmation of now-Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and her position on the EPA and environmental issues.
McCaskill touted her ability to work across the aisle on several occasions, citing an example of collaboration with Republican Senators to shut down a website used by sex traffickers.
She also highlighted the importance of oversight, rather than lawmaking.
“Sometimes oversight is better than legislation. If you do aggressive oversight, it can really make a difference,” McCaskill said.
McCaskill said she supported Trump’s choice to launch an airstrike in Syria on April 7, but would be hesitant to approve a full military intervention in the war-torn country.
“I’m worried it (April 7 airstrike) was an impulsive reaction and not part of a larger strategy or plan,” she said.
While supporting the airstrike, McCaskill slammed budget cuts that would eliminate programs like Meals on Wheels and significantly cut funding for services to seniors, including the Hannibal Nutrition Center, which hosted the event. She implored the president to refrain from a trip to Mar-a-Lago, a Trump-owned destination in Florida to which the president has frequently traveled. McCaskill alleged one trip to the private club could fund Meals on Wheels in Missouri for two years. She criticized the president for taking too many personal trips while in office at a cost so far of $21 million.
She also explained her position on Planned Parenthood and education, saying no federal funds are used for abortions and supporting Planned Parenthood’s efforts to provide birth control, which leads to lower abortion rates.
McCaskill also said she wanted to protect public schools from the push for “school choice” — which provides funding for vouchers and funnels more tax dollars to private schools. Rural school districts, where there are few to no options for private schools, would suffer, according to the senator.
Hannibal Public School District #60 Superintendent Susan Johnson attended the town hall as a representative for public schools.
“I appreciated what Sen. McCaskill shared in that we are rural Missouri. When you get into school choice and tax credit initiatives, I want our legislators to understand the detrimental impact that will happen on all public education,” Johnson said. “If funding for public schools somehow gets redirected somewhere else, that’s going to hurt a lot of kids.”
McCaskill faced a friendly crowd, which often applauded following responses to questions — unlike other town hall meetings throughout the country which featured angry constituents shouting at or heckling elected officials.
One area in which McCaskill did not receive quite as warm of a response was when she was asked about the Environmental Protection Agency. McCaskill, who considers herself a moderate, said she agrees with many of Republican counterparts that the agency often oversteps its bounds, causing life for rural Missourians to become too burdensome.
The senator also took on healthcare, lamenting that the current administration hasn’t, as she said, reached out to moderate Democrats to address problems with the Affordable Care Act, known by many as Obamacare. She did not support Republicans’ replacement, saying, “it was a tax cut bill, not a health care bill.”
She again pointed out that rural Missourians between the ages of 55 and 65 would have suffered the most under the now-retracted Republican replacement to Obamacare.
Larry Craig, chairman of the Marion County Republican Central Committee, pressed McCaskill on her vote to confirm Gorsuch.
McCaskill explained she felt uncomfortable that an outside party, not the president, developed the list of finalists for the position left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
“I accept her explanation,” Craig said. “I don’t necessarily agree with it but I do accept the rationale. I’m not in a position to challenge her rationale.”
Most people seemed to appreciate McCaskill’s effort to come to Hannibal for the town hall.
“I’m happy she was here, especially because (Senator) Roy Blunt and (Congressman) Sam Graves have been totally missing in action,” Stephan Franke said. “She answered questions and talked to people who ideologically, and will forever, disagree with her. How are you supposed to know what’s you’re supposed to do if you don’t talk to your employers? And I think her constituents are her employers.”
Craig, who thanked McCaskill for her appearance, said he’s always looking for elected officials to represent the interests of Missouri voters.
“What we don’t have in Congress, in both houses, is any degree of harmony. We have no statesmen in our Congress. There is nobody serving as a statesman,” he said, noting discord between the two main political parties.
Craig said he at time agrees with the senator, but often wish she wouldn’t toe the Democrat party line as much.
For her part, McCaskill said town hall meetings are a key part of her job.
“I’ve got to go out and show respect in every corner of the state, whether they like me or don’t. I’ve got to show up,” she said.
McCaskill readily admits she’ll be in for a tough re-election campaign in a state that favored Trump by 19 points over Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Possible opponents in her bid for the senate seat include St. Louis-area Republican Rep. Ann Wagner, who has already amassed a $3 million war chest, and newly-sworn in Secretary of State Josh Hawley.