McCaskill makes final push in Southwest Missouri, touts bipartisan record

Sen. Claire McCaskill talks with supporters Wednesday at Democratic election headquarters during a campaign stop in Joplin. She emphasized what she said was her commitment to listening to opinions of others and trying to find aspects upon which agreement could be reached. She said President Donald Trump has signed 30 pieces of her legislation. GLOBE | ROGER NOMER

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill made a final rallying cry to her supporters Wednesday in Joplin, as she looks to secure every vote she can in a tightly contested race with Josh Hawley.

McCaskill spoke to a crowd of about 100 at a Democratic field office Wednesday morning, where she told voters that her experience as a prosecutor, auditor and senator makes her a better, stronger candidate than Hawley.

The 12-year incumbent is fighting for re-election in a state that President Donald Trump won by nearly 20 points in 2016, and the race is considered to be a virtual toss-up. On the campaign trail, McCaskill is using her record as a bipartisan, moderate senator to pick up votes in rural and conservative areas.

"I think we get ahead by me spending long hours talking and listening to my Republican colleagues and figuring out what we can agree on," McCaskill said. "That's why the president signed into law 30 pieces of my legislation, because that's the kind of senator I am."

The Senate race is one of the most closely watched in the nation, as Democrats look to flip both the House and Senate. Money has been flooding into both campaigns in a race that's heated up since the August primaries.

But as suspicious packages — some containing pipe bombs and others containing white powder — were found Wednesday at the offices of current and former Democratic officeholders in New York and Florida, McCaskill said it's time to turn down the heat on both sides.

"I am just as offended at people getting in people's faces at restaurants and shouting at them as I am at the notion that someone would be threatening people with pipe bombs," McCaskill said. "We need to quit pointing fingers at each other and figure out how we can come to the middle and try to get along better."

McCaskill's visit comes two days after Hawley campaigned at the Joplin Veterans of Foreign Wars post, hitting McCaskill for her vote against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and for what he said was a lax stance on immigration.

"She hung that guy out to dry," Hawley said of McCaskill's decision to steer clear of a partisan bicker over Kavanaugh's confirmation. "She watched her fellow Senate Democrats destroy him, and she was all for it."

Hawley has also sought to paint McCaskill as "another Washington liberal" who has lost touch with Missouri. But McCaskill said it's Hawley who doesn't know his constituents

"There are so many places that he is out of step with mainstream Missouri. Part of that is, he hasn't been around that long," she said, seemingly taking a jab at Hawley's short tenure as attorney general. He announced his Senate candidacy less than a year into his term.

Health care and immigration

Democrats have made health care a key talking point in races across the country, especially pre-existing conditions. Hawley is one of 20 state attorneys generals who filed a lawsuit to render the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, which McCaskill said would remove health care consumer protections, including those for pre-existing conditions.

"He could have filed a pleading with the court to say, 'Get rid of all of it, but sever out pre-existing conditions,'" McCaskill said. "He's trying to tell you he supports (pre-existing conditions), so why didn't he ask the court to set that aside?"

The race between McCaskill and Hawley has also been one about immigration, as Hawley on Monday criticized McCaskill for co-sponsoring "the most radical open-borders bill in the history of the United States Congress." That bill is the Keeping Families Together Act, which would prohibit law enforcement from separating immigrant children from their parents within 100 miles of the U.S. border.

McCaskill said "of course" there needs be a secure border, emphasizing that she's visited the border, listened to what agents need and is endorsed by the National Border Patrol Council, which also endorsed Trump.

"The Border Patrol agents looked at my record and looked at Josh Hawley, and endorsed me because they know I have been a strong voice for border security," McCaskill said. "This notion that I somehow am wanting open borders couldn't be further from the truth."

Reporter

Tyler covers Jasper County, which includes the Carthage City Council, Jasper County Commission and anything in between. Tyler can be reached at twornell@joplinglobe.com or 417.627.7258.