By Susan Redden
JOPLIN, Mo. —
The federal government favored by her Republican opponents would have been ill-equipped to respond to Joplin’s disastrous tornado a year ago, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said Monday.
McCaskill said she has no idea who she will face after the GOP primary, but she said the three main candidates battling for the Republican nomination are taking positions “that make government the enemy and compromise a dirty word.”
“They make John Ashcroft look like a liberal,” the senator said to a crowd gathered outside the newly opened Democratic headquarters in Joplin.
In what she said was her seventh stop of the day, McCaskill helped local Democrats mark the official opening of the campaign office at 509 S. Wall Ave. The group overflowed the building, so she spoke to a large crowd that gathered in the parking lot.
Nearly $300 million in federal money has come to Joplin since the May 2011 tornado, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration and Community Development Block Grant funds, McCaskill said.
“People look down their noses at some federal programs, but they played an important role when you all were working so hard to get on your feet,” she said.
She also emphasized her work to find compromise with Republicans, noting that she had worked with Sen. John McCain of Arizona on earmark legislation and with Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama on spending caps. She said she now is working with Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida, on a measure involving the Internet.
“I’m a moderate, and we need more people willing to compromise in the middle,” she said to applause from the crowd.
McCaskill noted that she will campaign next week in Kansas City alongside Vice President Joe Biden. She said she has invited President Barack Obama to campaign in Missouri.
She said she supports the president but disagrees with him on several issues, including the Keystone Pipeline, and cap and trade legislation.
Ken Johnson, of Carthage, came to Joplin for the gathering and said he was impressed by the size of the crowd.
“She’s honest, and she tells it like it is,” he said.
Howard Spiva, a World War II veteran who is active in many local veterans organizations, said he appreciated McCaskill’s work on behalf of veterans.
“We really need a veterans clinic in Joplin, and she wants to help with that,” Spiva said.
McCaskill is completing her first Senate term and is unopposed on the Democratic ballot. Eight candidates are seeking the GOP nomination to challenge her. The main contenders are Sarah Steelman, former state treasurer; John Brunner, a St. Louis businessman; and U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, of Missouri’s 2nd District. Libertarian Jonathan Dine also will be on the November ballot.
DOUG BROOKS, a Joplin resident and member of the Democratic National Committee, introduced Claire McCaskill. He urged those on hand to get involved in work on behalf of Democratic candidates by manning phone banks and canvassing neighborhoods.