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Sen. Claire McCaskill (D)

Missouri

N/A

mccaskill.senate.gov

Biography

Elected: 2006, term expires 2018, 2nd term.

Born: July 24, 1953, Rolla, MO

Home: Kirkwood, MO (St. Louis)

Education: U. of MO, B.S. 1975, J.D. 1978

Professional Career: Law clerk, MO Court of Appeals, 1978; Asst. Jackson Cnty. prosecutor, 1978-82; Practicing atty., 1983-92.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Roman Catholic

Family: Married (Joseph Shepard) , 3 children ; 4 stepchildren ; 8 grandchildren

Democrat Claire McCaskill, elected in 2006, is Missouri’s senior senator, a straight-talking centrist, and an outspoken proponent of government reform. Her close relationship with President Barack Obama almost doomed her reelection, but she drew an opponent who committed arguably the 2012 season’s most disastrous gaffe.

McCaskill was born in Rolla, about halfway between St. Louis and Springfield, and grew up in the Missouri towns of Houston, Lebanon, and Columbia. She hails from a political family. Her father served for a time as state insurance commissioner, and her mother was the first female city council member in the university town of Columbia. McCaskill earned degrees from the University of Missouri and its law school, clerked for the state Court of Appeals in Kansas City, and worked as an assistant prosecutor. In 1982, at the age of 29, she was elected to the Missouri House, where she was the first sitting member to have a baby. Ten years later, she became Jackson County prosecutor. And in 1998, she decided to run statewide and was elected state auditor.

Halfway through her second term as auditor in 2004, McCaskill challenged incumbent Gov. Bob Holden in the Democratic primary. Holden’s administration had started off on the wrong foot, holding a $1 million inaugural, the largest in state history, and winding up $417,000 in debt. Things didn’t get much better as a tough economic climate necessitated deep spending cuts, and Holden battled with the legislature over education funding. Democrats worried that they needed a stronger candidate to survive a Republican challenge in November. In stepped McCaskill, who defeated Holden 52%-45%. The state’s major labor unions, which backed Holden, quickly united behind her against Republican Secretary of State Matt Blunt, the 33-year-old son of Sen. Roy Blunt. This was not the first contest between the McCaskills and Blunts: Blunt’s grandfather, Leroy Blunt, had been elected to the Missouri House in 1978 by defeating McCaskill’s mother, Betty McCaskill.

In the general election campaign, Blunt promised to make state government more accountable and efficient. McCaskill sought to take advantage of Blunt’s youth and relative inexperience in state government, noting that she would not need on-the-job training. She lost 51%-48%. McCaskill easily carried the Kansas City and St. Louis metropolitan areas but lost big in outstate Missouri, where Blunt won 90 of the 97 counties outside the two metro areas.

Despite the narrow loss, with three previous statewide races, McCaskill was a prize Senate recruit for the national party in 2006. She would be running for a seat that had changed partisan hands in both 2000 and 2002. McCaskill announced her candidacy against Republican Sen. Jim Talent in August 2005 on the steps of the feed mill where her father once worked—a backdrop that telegraphed her focus on the rural counties that cost her the governor’s election. She denounced tax breaks for oil companies, called for an increase in the minimum wage, and said she would push tax credits for first-time home purchases, child care, and college education. Throughout the campaign, McCaskill linked Talent to President George W. Bush.

But the issue of embryonic stem cell research generated the most attention. A controversial proposed constitutional amendment forced both candidates to address whether they supported more government funding for the research, which uses surplus embryos from in vitro fertilization procedures. McCaskill supported it, and Talent was against it. Missouri Republicans were split: State business leaders backed the proposal in hopes of attracting biomedical research to the state, while religious conservatives opposed it, considering the destruction of embryos tantamount to abortion.

In October, Talent flayed McCaskill over her family’s personal finances and demanded that she release the tax returns of her husband, Joseph Shepard, a developer of low income housing financed by government loans, who filed his taxes separately from her. Talent also suggested that they hadn’t paid all of their taxes and accused McCaskill’s husband of owning an offshore tax shelter. On Election Day, McCaskill won 50%-47%, a difference of just 48,000 votes out of 2.1 million cast. It was the third consecutive election for the seat decided by fewer than 50,000 votes. Just as in the 2004 governor’s race, McCaskill won big margins in the Kansas City and St. Louis metro areas, but unlike 2004, she held her own in outstate Missouri and carried 11 counties that she lost earlier.

In the Senate, McCaskill has emphasized her independence, voting against her party more often than most non-Southern Democrats. In 2010, after incumbent Democrats across the country were portrayed as pork-barrel spenders in the midterm elections, McCaskill joined with conservative Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma to resurrect the ban on earmarks, forcing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring their bill to a vote. The practice of earmarking began in earnest only in the 1970s, so claims that a ban would impede Congress’s constitutional “power of the purse” are “horseradish,” said McCaskill, in the folksy vernacular that has become a trademark. The measure failed on a procedural vote. However, Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, in 2011 announced a two-year earmark moratorium, which was later extended through fiscal 2013.

McCaskill has departed from the Democratic line on a host of other issues. Despite supporting the health care law, she later said she would consider changing its individual mandate requirement. In 2010, she joined other moderates in questioning the party’s support for continual extensions of unemployment benefits. “At some point, it starts to look like another entitlement program,” she said. She opposed the 2007 immigration bill that created a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. She declined to commit in 2008 to Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer’s bill tightening restrictions on greenhouse gases. But she redeemed herself somewhat in Democrats’ eyes when she declared in July 2011 that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had “lost his mind” by letting political ambitions take precedence over striking a deal over raising the federal debt limit. McCaskill has been a persistent critic of the practice of Senate “holds,” in which a single senator can, without explanation, anonymously prevent consideration of a bill or a nomination.

Her crowning achievement in her first term was a bill included in the fiscal 2013 defense authorization law. It requires government agencies to prove that money will not be wasted on projects before they allocate funds, while at the same time strengthening the powers of inspectors general investigating fraud and abuse. The bill also established a clear chain of authority for contracting oversight in the Defense Department, State Department, and U.S. Agency for International Development.

McCaskill’s image as an ethics watchdog, however, suffered a blow in 2011 with news reports saying she had spent $76,000 in taxpayer funds to fly on a private plane that she co-owned with her husband. She sought to quickly extinguish the controversy by contending it was a small oversight and reimbursing the Treasury for the expense. But the situation—dubbed “Air Claire” —became worse when the senator acknowledged that she had failed to pay more than $287,000 in personal property taxes on the plane. She later paid $88,000 to the government to cover all costs associated with the flights and sold the plane.

With Missouri becoming more conservative-leaning in recent years, McCaskill was at the top of most endangered incumbent lists heading into the 2012 election. Her approval rating that year was stuck just above 40%, and by August, conservative groups such as political strategist Karl Rove’s American Crossroads had poured in more than $15 million in attack ads against her.

With the Show-Me State considered a shoo-in for a Republican presidential candidate, GOP challengers began lining up. Among them was Rep. Todd Akin, who had developed a reputation as a House member for vehement social conservatism. McCaskill made no secret of her desire to have Akin as her opponent in lieu of more moderate Republicans like former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and St. Louis businessman John Brunner, who were also running in the primary. Her campaign released in July an ad that branded Akin the “true conservative.” The gambit may have worked: Akin won 36% to Brunner’s 30% and Steelman’s 29%, with five other Republicans splitting the rest.

Despite McCaskill’s centrist record, Akin hammered her as a liberal, and she trailed him in polls. Targeting her message, she talked up education loans with college students, called for a minimum wage hike with union workers, and vowed to senior citizens that she would protect Social Security. She also refused to cede rural areas, driving to small towns to discuss how many times she had differed with her party. Then, the race abruptly turned around when Akin gave an interview to St. Louis TV station KTVI two weeks after the August primary. Asked if women who had been raped are entitled to an abortion, he dropped a bombshell: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Realizing the disaster on their hands, Republicans from presidential nominee Mitt Romney on down called on Akin to withdraw from the race. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he would no longer provide Akin financial help (although it was later revealed that the NRSC provided $760,000 in the race’s closing days).

Akin refused to get out, and on Election Day, it wasn’t even close. McCaskill won with 55% to Akin’s 39%; Libertarian Jonathan Dine’s got 6%. Although Akin won most of the small rural counties, McCaskill won several that she had lost in 2006, including Springfield-based Greene County. She also won St. Charles County in the St. Louis suburbs, which had been considered one of Akin’s strongholds.

McCaskill is one of Congress’ most avid users of Twitter, and has attracted more than 87,000 followers by regularly tweeting both interesting political and personal tidbits. In November 2011, she tweeted her intention to lose weight: “It’s official. I have divorced bread and pasta. I’m hoping someday we can be friends again.” (She ultimately shed 50 pounds.) After the National Rifle Association called for more armed guards in schools following the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, she tweeted: “Conservatives preach no federal govt and local control of schools until the NRA wants the federal government to mandate guns in schools?”

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-6154

(202) 228-6326

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Suite 730
Washington, DC 20510-2507

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-6154

(573) 442-7140

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 730
Washington, DC 20510-2507

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-6154

(573) 442-7140

28 North Eighth Street Suite 500
Columbia, MO 65201-4853

DISTRICT OFFICE

(573) 442-7130

(573) 442-7140

28 North Eighth Street Suite 500
Columbia, MO 65201-4853

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-6154

(573) 442-7140

5850 Delmar Boulevard Suite A
St. Louis, MO 63112

DISTRICT OFFICE

(314) 367-1364

(314) 361-8649

5850 Delmar Boulevard Suite A
St. Louis, MO 63112

DISTRICT OFFICE

(573) 651-0964

(573) 334-4278

555 Independence Street Room 1600
Cape Girardeau, MO 63703-6235

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-6154

(573) 442-7140

555 Independence Street Room 1600
Cape Girardeau, MO 63703-6235

DISTRICT OFFICE

(816) 421-1639

(816) 421-2562

4141 Pennsylvania Avenue Suite 101
Kansas City, MO 64111-3064

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-6154

(573) 442-7140

4141 Pennsylvania Avenue Suite 101
Kansas City, MO 64111-3064

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-6154

(573) 442-7140

324 Park Central West Suite 101
Springfield, MO 65806-1218

DISTRICT OFFICE

(417) 868-8745

(417) 831-1349

324 Park Central West Suite 101
Springfield, MO 65806-1218

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Staff

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Pat Bond
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Nick Choate
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Janelle McClure
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Kyle Simpson
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Nick Choate
Legislative Assistant

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Janelle McClure
Legislative Counsel

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Elizabeth Herman
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Mark Dennin
Legislative Correspondent

Social Security

Elizabeth Herman
Legislative Counsel

Mark Dennin
Legislative Correspondent

Tax

Elizabeth Herman
Legislative Counsel

Mark Dennin
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Nick Choate
Legislative Assistant

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Nick Choate
Legislative Assistant

Mark Dennin
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Elizabeth Herman
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Mark Dennin
Legislative Correspondent

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Nick Choate
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Mark Dennin
Legislative Correspondent

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Nick Rawls
Policy Aide

Jason Rauch
Legislative Assistant

Women

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Claire McCaskill
Votes: 1,494,125
Percent: 54.82%
Todd Akin
Votes: 1,066,159
Percent: 39.11%
Jonathan Dine
Votes: 165,468
Percent: 6.07%
2012 PRIMARY
Claire McCaskill
Unopposed
2006 GENERAL
Claire McCaskill
Votes: 1,055,255
Percent: 50.0%
Jim Talent
Votes: 1,006,941
Percent: 47.0%
2006 PRIMARY
Claire McCaskill
Votes: 282,767
Percent: 81.0%
Bill Young
Votes: 67,173
Percent: 19.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2006 (50%)

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