Appealing To 'Ruby Red' Missouri, McCaskill Speaks Her Mind

Apr 14, 2017

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill says she'll speak her mind and "let the chips fall as they may."
Credit Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill stood on a stage at Park University Thursday and took questions from some of the several hundred people packed into the majestic college chapel.

It was the latest in a string of town halls she's holding around the state.

The Senator was in Sikeston and Hannibal earlier in the week. On Friday she’s scheduled to be in Springfield and Rolla.

The two-term Senator, a Democrat, has made it clear she plans to run for re-election in 2018.

She knows her state is as red as it’s ever been: Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Missouri by 18 points in the 2016 presidential election. And she knows her support dwindles outside the Democratic strongholds of St. Louis and Kansas City.

Her strategy — to put herself out there and meet people face-to-face.

“I think it’s important that I’m not afraid to go anywhere in the state and encounter people who disagree with me,” she told reporters after the town hall.

In a jab at her fellow Republicans, she called it "shocking" that some have declined to hold town halls in the wake of polarizing issues like the Republican debacle to “repeal and replace” Obamacare.

“Some of my Republican colleagues are hiding and don’t want to come out, especially the members of Congress,” McCaskill said.

At the same time, McCaskill said she was urging her Democratic colleagues to try and understand the mandate Trump received, calling the November election "humbling."

"People wanted a disrupter," she said.

McCaskill made a point Thursday to highlight some of her bipartisan efforts in Washington.

For example, she referred to her work with Ohio Republican Rob Portman to curb sex trafficking.

In answer to a question challenging her commitment to the environment, she defended her decision to support the Keystone XL Pipeline. She said Missouri sees a lot of oil moving via rail and river. A pipeline is the safest form of travel, she said, as well as a provider of jobs.

But she criticized environmental regulatory overreach and  opposes what she called “dumb” regulations.  She pledged not to vote to abolish the EPA.

McCaskill said the support for education vouchers by President Trump's Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos will help private schools in big cities and harm public schools, which is the only option for many rural communities.

The senator said she was surprised there were not more questions about foreign policy; she is a member of the Armed Services Committee and Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. 

McCaskill did say she was encouraged by support from Republicans and Democrats who have expressed a commitment to investigate connections between Russia and U.S. elections.

Laura Ziegler is a community engagement reporter and producer. Reach her at lauraz@kcur.org or on twitter @laurazig.