Stresses Inclusion, Not Policy In Speech
"Focus on Ideas, Not Labels"
Passes on Evaluating Blunt
"I'm not here to comment about Governor Blunt's administration."
"We need a new way of looking at things"
In her brother's kitchen, Sarah Steelman officially kicked off her campaign for Governor in Springfield Saturday, stressing a message of inclusion and a "new way of looking at things," while steering clear of policy specifics and a direct opinion of current Republican Governor Matt Blunt.
"We have to make some bold moves," said Steelman in her opening remarks, standing next to her three sons, her husband and other family and friends. "And I believe to get there we need a new way of looking at things, and doing things. And talking to one another and working together."
The current State Treasurer and former two-term State Senator listed the economy, health care and affordable education has her top priorities, but left specific positions for another day. "I want to wait and roll my initiatives out in the next couple of weeks," Steelman said.
The tone of her announcement speech instead focused on unity, working together, and restoring "power to the people." "It's a different type of politics than what has become the norm today. It is a politics that puts people first," Steelman said. She said growing up, her family spoke about issues at the kitchen table with great rigor and conviction, but also with respect -- no matter what party you called your own. Steelman signaled she wanted to bring that type of tone to the Governor's office. She said government should be "open, respectful and true."
(***Tune in for my full report tonight at KY3 News @ 6 and KY3 News @ 10.)
THE MEDICAID CUTS
Steelman declined to take a position on the contentious Medicaid cuts of 2005, which has become the signature issue of Democratic candidate Jay Nixon's campaign.
"I'm not here to Monday morning quarterback Matt Blunt's administration, and the legislative changes that were made. There were hard decisions that had to be made in the state because we faced a fiscal crisis," Steelman said.
Steelman said her health care proposal would be forthcoming but would include principals of affordability and accessibility. "I think we need to be sure to take care of those individuals, because of something that has happened to them beyond their own control, have a way at finding and getting the health care that they need," Steelman replied.
When I asked Steelman if restoring some of the people cut would be an option, she again declined specifics. "I'm not trying to put you off, those are good questions but those are all things what I want to do," Steelman said. "What I'm talking about here in my speech is to make sure that we hear from the people in this state and have an open and good discussion about the best kind of health care we can provide to Missouri. I'm going to incorporate all those kinds of ideas into our initiative that we advance," she added.
Steelman wouldn't speculate on why she's a stronger candidate than Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder, who is expected to formally announce his campaign in the coming weeks. "Peter's a friend of mine. I served with Peter in the State Senate. What I can tell you is about me," Steelman said. "I think I'm a good candidate because I can make a positive difference. I want to return power to the people of this state and I am a hard worker," Steelman added.
Steelman said when she made her announcement to run for re-election as Treasurer, she assumed Matt Blunt would seek a second term. "I was really surprised," Steelman told me afterward. She said she was prepared to support him for another term, but said the opening gave her an opportunity to do a "better job at addressing the issues."
She said the Republicans made a good start in the state over the past few years, by addressing the fiscal crisis. "I know that we have worked hard to invest people's money here in the state to create jobs and the economy," Steelman said. Instead of addressing the Blunt administration record, Steelman pivoted to her own record as Treasurer.
"We've been very aggressive in the initiative we've done through our unclaimed property division to make sure that we are putting more money into the general revenue fund, which has helped the state of the economy here in Missouri," she said. "I think there's more work to be done but I think we have a great start already. And there's a lot to build on."
She also mentioned helping to create 6,000 jobs as part of the Mid-Missouri program. "Those are the kind of initiatives we need to continue to build upon into the future," she said.
When I asked Steelman how she'd be a different Governor than Matt Blunt, she turned to her inclusionary message and said she wanted to make sure all voices are heard. "I think every person has a seat at the table of government and that's what made our country great, and that's what will make our state great," she said.
"I want to have an open, honest and vigorous discussion about the issues where everyone is seated at that table," Steelman added. "In order to govern well, we need to have input and everyone needs to feel like they can sit at that table, no matter what their background, where they came from, what their education level is, what their income level is. We need participation," Steelman said.
She declined to say if she thought Matt Blunt was a good Governor. "Again, I think there's been a lot of things that have been done over the last four years that have laid a great foundation to build into the future," Steelman said.
THE REPUBLICAN PARTY
When asked if she was plotting a more independent candidacy, Steelman didn't waver. "I'm running as a Republican. I'm proud to be a Republican. I've always been proud to be a Republican. I worked for Ronald Reagan in Iowa in 1980. But I do believe no matter what your party is, once you govern, you represent every party in this state, every person," she said.
She said she did not think the G.O.P. had lost its roots. "I think the Republican Party are what has made so many people believe that we are the people, we are the party that should be governing. And it is the ideas of smaller, government, lower taxes, more money in your pocket, so you can make the decision on how you want to spend your money, rather than the government," Steelman replied. "Those are the ideas the people, no matter what party you are in -- think are important to make this state and country great. And that's where we need to focus this, on the ideas, not on labels - but on ideas," she said.