- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Kansas City Star, Aug. 24

Missouri’s U.S. Senate race devolving into petty skirmishes between McCaskill and Hawley camps

The possible U.S. Senate campaign pitting Sen. Claire McCaskill against Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley already shows signs of devolving into a meaningless mud fest.

The petty skirmishes should stop now. The 2018 Senate race must be about important things, not personal minutiae. Yet the campaigns and surrogates for both sides seem hell-bent on turning the race into content-free hot air.

McCaskill and Democrats are attacking Hawley for casting a primary ballot in Boone County this month. Missouri law requires the attorney general to “reside at the seat of government,” which is Jefferson City.

Hawley has an apartment there but also owns a home near Columbia. McCaskill finds that scandalous.

“Either he’s violating the law by not living in Jefferson City or he’s violating the law by voting in some place he doesn’t live,” she said the other day. “One of the two.”

Surely McCaskill knows residency is one of the most slippery concepts in government and politics. In essence, you reside where you say you reside.

The U.S. Constitution, for example, requires a senator “when elected, (to) be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.”

Is McCaskill a Missouri “inhabitant”? She would say yes. Yet in 2014, she spent $2.7 million on an apartment in Washington, D.C. One assumes she inhabited that apartment, at least part of the time.

The Senate race shouldn’t be about a mailing address.

Republicans, of course, have engaged in similar silliness about McCaskill. They’re hammering her for the D.C. condo and for recent comments about flying.

McCaskill said “normal people” can afford to fly. She made the comment in response to a constituent who made the same point and may have been talking about plane tickets.

Republicans heard something else. “To say that normal people can afford private planes is either totally delusional or just outright insulting to hardworking Missourians,” a GOP statement said.

We get it. McCaskill is wealthy. So are most members of Congress. Her colleague, Sen. Roy Blunt, is a millionaire (his residence was an issue in 2016). Missourians are smart enough to understand all of this.

Hawley obviously earns enough to maintain two residences just a few miles apart. Not many hardworking Missourians can afford that, either.

Personal behavior and decision-making can be important yardsticks for some voters, of course. Clear conflicts of interest or misfeasance in office are fair game for the state’s consideration next year. Favoritism, backroom deals, secret cash are unacceptable.

But the bar is high: The public’s interest must be at stake. So far, the dialogue in the Missouri Senate race has fallen far short of that standard.

The nation faces unbelievably tough choices on a range of issues: health care, taxes, spending, war, racism, opportunity, Donald Trump. The 2018 campaign must be focused on each candidate’s approach to those concerns and others.

To all candidates: Stop the silly sniping at each other over minor issues. Make the 2018 race about voters and not about you.


The Columbia Daily Tribune, Aug. 25

Tribune’s View: New evidence should have us all question Williams’ guilt

It seems justice will get a second chance to prevail, and the state of Missouri narrowly avoided killing a potentially innocent man. Only time will tell for sure, but time is exactly what Marcellus Williams needed most.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens issued a stay of execution Tuesday for Williams, three hours before he was to be put to death. Williams, who has been on death row since his 2001 conviction, is accused of murdering St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Felicia Gayle in her home Aug. 11 1998.

“A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment,” Greitens said in a statement. “To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt.”

It will take more than a stay of execution for some Missourians to regain that confidence. New evidence collected and presented earlier this year was disregarded by the Missouri Supreme Court, which set an execution date anyway. And Greitens’ last-minute decision required prodding by a massive public effort and protests in front of the Capitol in Williams’ defense. Without that grassroots movement, Williams would be dead.

New DNA evidence collected brings into question what we think we know about the identity of Gayle’s killer. Scientific advances in the field of forensics, unavailable at the time of Williams’ trial and sentencing, provided new facts that must be explored.

DNA collected from the murder weapon, skin under the victim’s fingernails and hair follicles found at the crime scene don’t match Williams. The million-dollar question is: Whose DNA is it then?

Williams’ attorney asked the Missouri Supreme Court to compare the DNA evidence with the state’s DNA database and the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System. The court initially ignored that recommendation. Now there’s time to get it right.

Missourians not only need the answer to whose DNA was found at Gayle’s home, but they need to see our justice system work diligently to find those answers. Only then can confidence be restored.

Make no mistake, Williams is no choir boy. He’s had numerous run-ins with the law and seemed destined for a life behind bars. Before being sentenced to death, he was serving consecutive life terms for robbery, burglary and weapons misconduct. None of those convictions warrant the death penalty, however.

Gayle deserves justice as much as her killer deserves punishment. The only way to do right by the victim is to find her killer with absolute certainty. We’re not convinced it isn’t Williams, but we’re not convinced it is, either. Hundreds of thousands of others signed an online petition because they’re skeptical as well.


The St. Joseph New-Press, Aug. 26

Right-to-work stands on merits

A worker’s freedom to choose whether to join a union appears headed to an up-or-down statewide vote in Missouri, likely in November 2018.

Knowing this, supporters have a decision of their own to make:

They can continue to bemoan a union-bankrolled petition drive that is causing a decision of the General Assembly to be set aside in favor of a public vote.

Or, they can take their message to the public - as surely union boosters will do - and win their argument with the support of commonsense, reason and facts.

Advocates who are serious about achieving a victory for worker rights have little choice but to go with the latter option.

Even the Republican secretary of state’s office took note when opponents of right-to-work produced what they said were more than 300,000 signed petitions to force a statewide vote. That would be three times the number needed.

Still, advocates of right-to-work were justified in complaining about improprieties reported involving the collection of signatures. In one believable scenario, people who support right-to-work reportedly were told they had to sign in order to have a chance to vote for it - never being told it already had been approved and was about to take effect.

County election officials have until Nov. 1 to verify the signatures. Presuming enough are valid, the law that was to take effect Monday, Aug. 28, will remain blocked until a vote occurs next year.

Proponents of the disputed state law need to keep working to articulate the commonsense point that they are on the right side of this long-running labor-rights debate. A total of 27 other states already have enacted right-to-work legislation; Missouri will be better off when it joins them.

This is particularly understandable when you consider that of eight states surrounding Missouri - and competing for businesses and workers - seven already have enacted right-to-work legislation. Workers in those states already have the freedom to choose whether they will join and support a union.

It’s been about 40 years since Missouri voters last were asked to decide a right-to-work proposal. It’s hard to envision that voters today will be as inclined as they were then to stick with a system that forfeits their right to choose.


The Springfield News-Leader, Aug. 26

To fight opioid crisis, thorny measures needed

There have been encouraging moves in these relatively early days of fighting the opioid crisis. The establishment of local and statewide prescription drug monitoring programs has captured most of the headlines.

However, leaders in these efforts to combat opioid addiction have always reminded us we would need a multi-pronged response. Some of those responses will require us to do things that might initially seem uncomfortable.

Making the overdose antidote Narcan widely available is another of the important tools.

David Stoecker, with his experience fighting his own addiction and now assisting others, has a unique and important perspective. He’s been getting Narcan to as many people as he can, in hopes it will save others the way it saved him.

Now the advocacy and education outreach coordinator for the Missouri Recovery Network, he’s handed out 500 kits, has 400 more on hand, and hopes to get more through grants.

Those kits come with training, as Stoecker has reached out to friends and family of addicts, school nurses and counselors, church leaders and many others.

His mission is one worth adopting - get the life-saving medication in the hands of anyone who might find they need to save a life.

And that’s more people than we likely realize.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 33,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2015. The organization calls it an epidemic.

Fighting an epidemic will take more than just first responders.

One of the hurdles is that some worry Narcan enables addicts by giving them a sort of “get out of jail free card,” if they overdose.

But remember that Narcan isn’t our only weapon in this fight. We still aim for databases to find doctors who overprescribe and users who shop for doctors. We still aim to connect addicts with longer-term treatment programs.

A second measure that might seem risky is the so-called “Good Samaritan Law,” which protects folks who call 911 to report an overdose from being charged with possession of a controlled substance.

There tends to always be a fear of letting criminals get away, but the law won’t protect more serious offenders - those who can be shown to manufacture or distribute controlled substances.

Like with Narcan availability, this is a smaller concession we must make to help save lives.

It is worth remembering, also, that saving someone from overdose and treating addiction can have an effect on future generations.

As we learned last week from Greene County Drug Court Judge Peggy Davis, a high percentage of offenders in her program started using at an early age. She said that is usually because people in the home were using drugs.

Saving a person now may also mean saving that person’s children.

Pastor John Alarid, who founded CityReach Springfield, a church that targets addicts, homeless people and those coming out of jails and prisons, is a good example of the difference Narcan and recovery can make.

“This saved my life,” he said of the medicine. “I very likely wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to help others and pastor a church, be a father to my daughter and husband to my wife.”

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