Three Democrats running for an open seat in the Missouri Senate differ little in their emphasis on issues they say the General Assembly should address.
One of them, Anthony Banks of Independence, says they want more jobs, want more funding for schools and oppose “right to work” legislation seen as an attack on unions.
“I think we all agree on that,” he said.
The issue, the three say, is who is best suited to take up such causes.
“We have to send somebody down there that knows how to get things done,” said state Rep. John Rizzo of Kansas City. He currently represents the 19th House District in northeast Kansas City and northwest Independence.
Banks and Jessica Podhola of Independence, both making their first runs for office, say Rizzo’s ties to Jefferson City are the problem and the General Assembly needs new faces “because you have to have truth-tellers,” as Podhola put it.
The 11th District includes Independence and Sugar Creek, parts of northeast Kansas City and northeast Jackson County, including Buckner, Sibley and Levasy. Voters go to polls next Tuesday. Polls in Missouri are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. The name of a fourth Democrat, Mary Catherine DiCarlo, is on the ballot, but she has not run an active campaign or filed financial reports with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
The winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary faces Republican Brent Lasater, a former state representative from Independence, in November. Terms in the Senate are four years. The seat has been vacant for a year since the resignation of Sen. Paul LeVota.
Rizzo and Podhola have by far raised the most money for the campaign and have focused the comments and campaign fliers on one another. Banks says he’s trying to show that a hard-working candidate with little money can win -- “If you want to equate it to presidential terms, I’m the Bernie here,” he said -- and he says all those campaign fliers turn off the voters he’s talked to. “It’s spam to them,” he said.
“People care about coming and giving a message” one on one, he said.
Some of the attacks have been sharp. Rizzo says Podhola has been relentlessly negative in the campaign, including attacks on his family. Her campaign fliers mention Rizzo’s one-vote winning margin in his first House race in 2010 and admission by two family members that they gave false addresses in voting in that primary. He dismisses that as “all that stuff that has nothing to do with me, and she knows that.”
Rizzo said voters are reacting to and rejecting “her 100 percent negative campaign.”
Podhola also points to the gifts and meals Rizzo has taken from lobbyists.
“Look, facts are facts,” she said.
And although all three candidates stress their support for expanding Medicaid to the estimated 800,000 Missourians who don’t have health coverage, Podhola puts it in personal terms.
When her small daughter was born, her family was in that position.
“We had to pay cash for our daughter,” she said. “It put us in a hole financially, and it took us three years to get out of it.”
She also says that’s the basis of what she calls an unfair attack by Rizzo, who in a mailer says she “dodged her taxes” and liens were placed on her property.
“He attacks me for being poor,” she said.
Podhola said the lack of Medicaid coverage is a significant issue.
“There are a lot of families in the 11th District that are one hospital stay away from catastrophe,” she said.
Banks echoed that and said many voters have raised the issue with him and asked why Missouri hasn’t addressed this yet.
“I’ve had quite a few people bring up the Medicaid issue,” he said.
That issue, he said, is the kind of idea that doesn’t go far in Jefferson City because there’s too much money in politics and legislators are beholden to special interests.
“It’s not how our system is supposed to work,” he said.
Rizzo also said he’s proud to the have endorsements of Gov. Jay Nixon and former state Sen. Victor Callahan, who once held the seat Rizzo now seeks.
“They’re not people going around endorsing a lot of people,” Rizzo said.
Podhola said it was unusual for a governor to endorse in a race among Democrats.
“But am I surprised? No. That’s how these guys work,” she said.
The candidates said the state has several things to address.
“We’ve got to talk about improving our highways,” Rizzo said. “We’ve got to talk about jobs and stop with these attacks on social issues. We’ve got to create jobs.”
He added, “Anyone that travels I-70 knows that it needs to be repaired. … It’s just doing it in a responsible way that keeps taxes under control.”
He also said seniors need property tax relief. He introduced a bill to reinstate an expired state program on that.
Podhola, the director of governmental affairs for District Council 3 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades in Raytown, said she wants to serve in the Senate “but this is not what I want to do with the rest of my life,” and she said that would give her a degree of independence to push the conversation about significant ethics reform -- specifically the influence of money -- in Jefferson City. That might mean going to the voters with some changes.
“We have to start someplace,” she said.
Banks, who is taking no money from lobbyists, says he sees the problem in much the same way.
“And everybody doesn’t talk to each other” in Jefferson City, he said. “The conversation doesn’t even get started.”
Banks, who has been in the restaurant business for 20 years, said he wants to push for an increase in the minimum wage, probably in the $12- to $13-an-hour range, but he said much of the rest of the country is headed toward $15 an hour and he’s OK with that.
All three candidates said going door to door for months and hearing from voters has been a rewarding process.
“It’s been amazing, and it’s been tough,” Podhola said. “It’s been exhausting, and it’s been exhilarating.”
She added, “No matter what happens on Aug. 2, my faith in the Missouri voters has never been higher.”
In reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Banks reports having raised $2,524 and have spent $2,504. His largest contribution, $860, is from himself. He reported having $20 on hand heading into the campaign’s final days.
Podhola reports having raised $113,141 and having spent $74,684. She had $37,837 on hand as of Monday.
Her contributions of $1,000 or more are:
++ $45,000 from the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) political action committee, or PAC, in Hanover, Md. – $25,000 last December and $20,000 this month.
++ $3,500 from IUPAT District Council 711 in Hammonton, N.J.
++ $2,500 each from IUPAT District Council 15 in Henderson, Nev; and the Pipe Fitters Local 533 Volunteer Political Fund in Kansas City.
++ $2,000 from Operating Engineers Local 101 in Kansas City; and the Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus in Kansas City.
++ $1,500 from IUPAT District Council 5 in Seattle.
++ $1,000 each James Nutter, owner of James B. Nutter Mortgage in Kansas City, IUPAT District Council 35 in Roslindale, Mass.; IUPAT DIstrict Council 57 in Carnegie, Pa.; Sheet Metal Workers Local 2 in Kansas City; MOLLI’s List in St. Louis; Teamsters Local 541 in Kansas City; IUPAT District Council 78 in Orlando, Fla.; the Greater Kansas City Building and Trades Council in Independence; the Missouri Women’s Leadership Coalition in Kansas City; Sprinkler Fitter Local 314 in Kansas City; Kevin Walls, a physician in Kansas City; Ken and Cindy McClain of Independence; Boyd, Kenter Thomas & Parrish LLC of Independence; the Plumbers Local 8 PAC in Kansas City.
Rizzo reports having raised $370,332 for this election and having spent $296,241. He had $41,249 on hand in a report filed Monday.
His contributions of $1,000 or more are:
++ $55,001 from Carpenters Help in the Political Process, a political action committee of the Carpenters Union in St. Louis.
++ $20,000 from Safer Families for Missouri, in Jefferson City.
++ $10,401 from the Missouri State Council of Fire Fighters PAC in Blue Springs.
++ $10,000 each from Callahan for Missouri, the campaign fund of former state Sen. Victor Callahan of Independence (he held the seat that is now vacant in the 11th District); and the Simmons Hanly Conroy Law Firm of Alton, Ill.
++ $6,000 from the Political Action Committee for Health, in Jefferson City.
++ $5,500 from the Missouri Association of Nurse Anesthetists PAC in Jefferson City; the Committee to Elect Jake Hummel, a Democratic state representative from St. Louis.
++ $5,000 from Supporters of Health Research & Treatments in St. Louis.
++ $4,500 from Burns & McDonnell in Kansas City.
++ $3,500 from the BNSF Railway Company of Fort Worth, Texas.
++ $3,000 from Anheuser Busch of St. Louis; John Bardgett & Associates; and the Electrical Workers Voluntary PAC in St. Louis.
++ $2,500 each from Kansas City Power & Light; the KCP&L Power PAC-Missouri; the Rural Telecommunications Committee of Jefferson City; the Missouri Realtors PAC in Columbia, Mo.; the Gorny Law Firm in Kansas City; Brett Emison, an attorney in Lexington, Mo.; KC Bizpac, which is the PAC of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce; Express Scripts of St. Louis; the Committee for Quality Healthcare in Jefferson City; the Heavy Construction Laborers Local 663 PAC in Kansas City; and the Missouri NEA PAC of Jefferson City.
++ $2,000 from the HCA Political Action Committee in Kansas City; the HCA Missouri Good Government Fund in Jefferson City; KTCO LLC of Chesterfield, Missouri; Comcast; the AGC of MO PAC of St. Louis; Cheyenne International in Grover, N.C.; Gibbonsworkman LLC of Jefferson City; and Pinnacle Entertainment of Las Vegas.
++ $1,750 from the Credit Union Political Action Committee of Jefferson City; the AT&T Missouri Employee PAC; and the Missouri Association of Rehabilitation Facilities in Jefferson City.
++ $1,500 from PT-PAC of Missouri in Jefferson City; Health Systems Inc. of Sikeston, Mo.; the Union Pacific Railroad of Omaha; Xcaliber International Ltd. of Pryor, Okla.; MACO Development Company of Clarkton, Mo.; the Cerner Corp. of North Kansas City.
++ $1,325 from the Home Building Industry PAC of St. Louis.
++ $1,300 from International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 12.
++ $1,250 from the MO Orthopaedic PAC in Jefferson City.
++ $1,200 from the Missouri Association of Insurance & Financial Advisors in Jefferson City.
++ $1,000 each from The Benson Law Firm in Kirksville, Missouri; Preferred Capital Funding-Missouri of St. Louis; MO BEV PAC of Jefferson City; Better Schools for Missouri of Jefferson City; Sprint, of Phoenix; Polsinelli, the Kansas City law firm; Brent Hemphill & Associates of Jefferson City; MOSFA PAC of Jefferson City, whose donors are State Farm Insurance agents; the Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association; the Missouri Pork PAC of Columbia, Mo.; KP Development LLC of St. Louis; DC Inc of Fenton, Mo.; Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. of Whitehorse Station, N.J.; W.E. Shoehigh LLC of Jefferson City; Sterling Banshares of Poplar Bluff, Mo.; and the Missouri Leadership Committee of Farmington, Mo.