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Missouri Democrats back Biden agenda, tout path to victory in U.S. Senate debate

By: - November 4, 2021 10:15 am

Democrats running for the U.S. Senate gathered at the Jefferson College Fine Arts Theatre in Hillsboro on Nov. 3, 2021 (Getty Images).

Six Missouri Democrats running to be their party’s U.S. Senate nominee shared a debate stage for the first time Wednesday night, with each voicing support for the president’s stalled domestic agenda and laying out what they see as a path to victory in a state dominated by the GOP.

The candidates  — Air Force veteran Jewel Kelly, Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, community college professor Gena Ross, activist Tim Shepard, former state Sen. Scott Sifton and businessman Spencer Toder — each acknowledged winning the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt next year won’t be easy for any Democrat. 

But each also dismissed the idea that Republicans are a lock in the Show-Me State in 2022.

Sifton noted he flipped a St. Louis area state senate seat in 2012 and held on to it in 2016, two years where Republicans dominated up and down the ballot. 

“It’s these persuadable suburban battlegrounds that have gravitated toward Democrats in the Trump years,” he said, “and I’m the candidate who can keep pulling them into our column.”

Democrats can start to win back voters, Kunce said, if they “meet people where they’re at” by standing in opposition to corporate interests and vowing to “fundamentally change who has power in this country.”

“Whether you’re Democrat or Republican, whether you’re suburban, urban or rural,” he said, “you believe that the system is broken and that it doesn’t work and it is corrupted. And the reason people believe that is because it is true.”

Democrats need to go out into communities that they have been ignoring, Toder said, and “stop talking and start listening.”

“The government has not done the things the government is supposed to do,” he said. “It has not taken care of the disadvantaged and most vulnerable. And Donald Trump gave people a common enemy and preyed on the fact that we were divided and angry and frustrated with the government.” 

At the debate, held at the Jefferson College Fine Arts Theatre in Hillsboro, the candidates also threw their support behind the “Build Back Better” and infrastructure bills that make up the heart of President Joe Biden’s agenda. 

Both are stalled amidst disagreements between Democrats. 

Not only should the bills pass, Kelly said, but Democrats then have to do the work to inform the public about them. 

“We need to pass ‘Build Back Better’ and the infrastructure bill,” Kelly said. “But passing it isn’t the hardest part. We saw with the Affordable Care Act, execution matters. Communication matters.”

Democrats need to prove, Shepard said, that when they are in power “we are capable of governing and giving Americans the legislation they deserve.”

Ross said Democrats must keep fighting for their values.

“We don’t have to sit back and take what they give us,” she said. “We have to press back.”

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Jason Hancock
Jason Hancock

Jason Hancock has been writing about Missouri since 2011, most recently as lead political reporter for The Kansas City Star. He has spent nearly two decades covering politics and policy for news organizations across the Midwest, and has a track record of exposing government wrongdoing and holding elected officials accountable.

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