Senator Claire McCaskill made a campaign stop at Northwest Oct. 27 to speak about ballot issues with students and community members.
Before discussing the first issue, McCaskill shared some of her thoughts on her debate with opponent, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley Oct. 25. McCaskill, 65, said Hawley, 38, expressed concern about her age, but she reframed the issue in terms of years of experience.
“It is kind of funny when you think about it, that what I have chosen to do in my life in terms of serving the public is really the only occupation where experience is a negative,” McCaskill said. “I’m hoping that Missourians realize my experience means I get things done.”
McCaskill’s biggest talking point was healthcare, especially a lawsuit backed by Hawley that aims to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act.
“If he is successful, all the consumer protections you enjoy, including protections for pre-existing conditions, the 80/20 rule that prevents insurance companies from spending more than 20 cents of every dollar on their overhead, Medicare prescription drug benefits, are gone,” McCaskill said.
She also discussed Medicare and Social Security, taking issue with the programs being referred to as “entitlements,” and Republicans wanting to cut funding to the programs.
“Those aren’t entitlement programs; that’s your money,” McCaskill said. “You pay into Medicare and Social Security.”
She spoke out in favor of Ballot Proposition B, which would increase the state minimum wage to $8.60 per hour with an 85 cents per hour increase each year until 2023, saying full-time workers earning minimum wage should not be earning so little that they qualify for government benefits.
“This is a reasonable proposal,” McCaskill said. “We know that (a gradual increase) helps our economy, and we know that this does not harm jobs.”
The final issue McCaskill touched on was the issue of campaign advertisements and anonymous campaign donations, which she referred to as “dark money.”
“Fifty million dollars of dark and outside money has been spent on behalf of Josh Hawley,” McCaskill said. “Of that money, only $5 million did Josh Hawley raise himself.”
Many anti-McCaskill ads have been aired on TV and as pre-rolls on YouTube which were not paid for by Hawley’s campaign, but by independent groups with less-transparent sources of funding. McCaskill said Missourians should not believe ads--for or against her--if they do not know who is paying for the ads.
McCaskill alluded to pharmaceutical companies potentially paying for the ads. According to a STAT News article, PhRMA, the leading trade group for pharmaceutical manufacturers, declined to comment, but would not deny that the group was behind the attack ads.
McCaskill claimed that no campaign in Missouri has had more false ad-checks than Hawley’s. While this claim cannot be quantitatively supported, her website features six major claims made by ads refuted by independent fact-checkers.
“The twisting of the facts, the demonization of me and my family is so discouraging,” McCaskill said. “But I’ll tell you what’s not discouraging, you. I am honored to wage this fight for the values we share.”
McCaskill’s visit was hosted by Northwest’s Young Democrats group. Young Democrats President sophomore Tyler Bears said the group invited her to campus last year, but she declined. However, this year, she reached out to them and offered to stop by.
Bears said he still had butterflies in his stomach as McCaskill walked offstage, but he also felt a new reassurance.
“I feel a lot better about this race than I did before,” Bears said. “I certainly think there’s some hope, and I feel great about that.”
Young Democrats faculty adviser Jessica Gracey said she felt McCaskill’s visit energized people who might not normally vote in a midterm or volunteer for a campaign.
Freshman Vitaliy Tsytysk said he felt empowered by how positive and motivated McCaskill was.
Retired Northwest assistant professor of biology Karen Schaffer said she had never seen a candidate have valid points on healthcare or defend “entitlement” programs. She said she wanted to thank McCaskill for refuting false campaign commercial claims.
Sophomore Tom Downing said he was grateful for McCaskill standing up for Medicare and Medicaid.
“I’ve been on disability for two years, and I just appreciate what she’s doing and that she can back her statements up,” Downing said.
Both political science professor Richard Fulton and political science assistant professor Dan Smith said their minds were not changed about any of the issues discussed after hearing her speak but were impressed by McCaskill’s speaking ability and presence.
“We forget sometimes how good a speaker she is,” Smith said. “She’s an exceptional speaker.”
Of the attendees, many were staff, faculty and community members, but within the group were also Northwest students.
McCaskill said voter demographics shape the conversations during election years, and if young voter turnout was higher, politicians would discuss issues that matter more to young voters like student debt and the environment.
“If students would begin to vote, it would change the conversation in this country,” McCaskill said. “We would spend more time talking about the issues that really matter to your generation, and so I really hope that all the students at Northwest realize that they’ve got power in this election.”