Missouri and Kansas politicians support the right to pander and to blame President Obama

08/07/2014 4:49 PM

08/07/2014 6:02 PM

Just a couple of leftover curiosities from Tuesday’s election to talk about, and then we’ll move on.

Many St. Louis residents were taken aback Monday to pick up their phones and hear the sonorous voice of their mayor, Francis Slay, urging them to vote in favor of Amendment 1 on the Missouri ballot.

Wait a minute. The mayor of St. Louis endorsing the so-called right to farm amendment?

Yes, and he wasn’t the only prominent Missouri Democrat to support the controversial measure.

U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver lent his name to it. Secretary of State Jason Kander put out a last-minute news release, saying he intended to vote for Amendment 1 because it fosters regulatory consistency for businesses, which is good.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster went into full campaign mode, running around the state hugging farmers, denouncing restrictions on concentrated agricultural feeding operations and sounding like a charter member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which promotes big business bills in state legislatures. Including — you guessed it — right to farm legislation. Somebody give the attorney general a pitchfork, already.

Since no one is sure exactly what the right to farm amendment will do, other than get the state involved in lawsuits, I suppose it presented a convenient way for politicians to show solidarity with farmers and rural Missourians. The anti-regulatory amendment will make it harder to protect farm animals and puppies from abusive handling, but they don’t vote.

Environmentalists and family farmers do, and many of them opposed Amendment 1. But they lacked the financial clout of big agriculture, which outspent opponents of the measure two to one. Even Freedom Inc., the black political club based on Kansas City’s East Side, raked in $5,000 to support the right of corporate agriculture to engage in controversial practices and perhaps encroach on local control.

None of this would matter all that much if the vote hadn’t been so close. Amendment 1 ended up passing by 2,518 votes. Opponents said afterward they had counted on more “no” votes from St. Louis and, especially, Kansas City.

“We tremendously underperformed in Kansas City,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, which bankrolled most of the opposition. “It was this confusion, fostered by Democratic politicians with a record of supporting our work, that undoubtedly flipped more than 1,300 votes from “no” to “yes” among our natural constituency, and provided the margin of victory.”

There’s probably more to it, but just as every vote counts so, too, sometimes, does every endorsement.

Does the name Jennifer Winn ring a bell?

No reason it should, except that the Wichita businesswoman with no money or political experience pulled 37 percent of the vote in her GOP primary against Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday.

This was curious, and political pundits are making much of it. But what was really strange was Brownback’s explanation when asked about Republican voters supporting non-incumbents.

“I think a big part of it is Barack Obama,” the governor said. “A lot of people are so irritated about what the president is doing they want to throw a brick. They’re irritated about what is happening to their country.”

So, it’s not about using the state for a so-far-unsuccessful “experiment” (Brownback’s word) in extravagant tax cutting, or cratering the state budget and threatening schools and services. We are to believe that Kansas Republicans are so mad at Obama they reject the Republican governor who is a staunch Obama-basher?

Sure, whatever. Come to think of it, forget that theory about the Missouri Democrats sealing the deal on the right to farm vote. That was probably Obama, too.

Reach Barbara Shelly at 816-234-4594 or bshelly@kcstar.com. Twitter: bshelly.

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