Mo. House opponents make separate capital stops

They haven’t agreed on much lately.

But Democratic incumbent Ike Skelton and Republican challenger Vicky Hartzler both like, and praise, America’s veterans.

Each candidate for Missouri’s 4th District congressional campaign visited Jefferson City on Friday afternoon — meeting, shaking hands and talking with supporters who also are military service veterans.

“Thank you, those who have served our country,” Hartzler told about 30 veterans and other supporters gathered at her campaign office, 2511A Industrial Drive. “Thank you for your service, and I am honored to get to stand with you in this fight this year, to take back our country.”

Just an hour later, Skelton addressed about 35 veterans and other supporters gathered at the American Legion Hall, 1423 Tanner Bridge Road.

“They really are the all-stars of our freedom,” he said. “I like the bumper sticker I saw ... that says, ‘If you love freedom, thank a veteran.’

“So, I want to thank them so very, very much (and) I appreciate their support, especially in this election.”

Both Hartzler and Skelton noted their fathers’ military service and how that gave them a better understanding of, and support for, those in the military.

But politics was no stranger to either event.

Hartzler earlier this week issued a news release calling on Skelton to “take down his untruthful ad” claiming an endorsement by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“I have gotten so many calls from VFW members, and I know many of you are livid about that,” Hartzler told her supporters. “The VFW does not endorse.

“They have a PAC, a separate group that does.”

But, when asked about the dispute, Skelton told reporters after his American Legion visit: “Of course, the VFW endorsed me. ... As a matter of fact, one of the gentlemen in charge was here today.”

Hartzler spokesman Steve Walsh asked why a reporter didn’t call Skelton on that “lie,” since the endorsement came from the political action committee.

But Hartzler’s campaign says she was endorsed by the Missouri Farm Bureau, when her endorsement came from the Farm Bureau’s 4th District PAC.

“The Farm Bureau members participated in that PAC endorsement,” she told reporters. “Whereas, the VFW members had no say in this endorsement process.”

Skelton was not available for further comment.

But there is an apparent, internal controversy within the VFW, whose national headquarters is in Kansas City, about its endorsements.

Information from their website, www. vfw.org, shows the political action committee “was created by the VFW members and not by VFW national leaders (when) 2/3 of the delegates of the 80th VFW National Convention (in 1979) voted to establish the PAC as a standing committee.”

In an Oct. 12 letter to VFW members, national Commander-in-Chief Richard L. Eubank and two other officers added: “VFW by-laws stipulate that VFW leadership does not direct PAC activities and that the VFW convention is the governing body of the organization.”

That letter acknowledged some members were unhappy with the PAC’s endorsement of many congressional incumbents — including eight of Missouri’s nine representatives, skipping only William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis — and asked the political action committee to take back all of its endorsements.

“VFW’s values and guiding principles aren’t grounded in a desire to participate in partisan policies in political activities,” the letter said. “However, our recent endorsement process unintentionally provided favoritism to the incumbents.

“It is now evident it was unfairly skewed and actually subverted that process.”

But, the PAC leaders countered a day later: “This cycle the Board chose a methodology for endorsement that was used successfully in years past; grading an incumbent’s support by the position taken on critical issues of importance to the VFW.”

The PAC’s statement said an incumbent senator “must have voted in concert with the VFW position on seven of nine votes, and a representative 10 of 13 to receive the VFW-PAC endorsement.”

It disagreed “with those who claim the endorsement process is skewed, flawed, or unfair. Some incumbents will have an advantage over another candidate because they have a good voting record on the issues.

“They also have a disadvantage if their votes don’t support the VFW’s position.” The national commander on Oct. 18 announced he will propose that the national convention eliminate its PAC, and he withdrew all appointments to the political action committee as of Oct. 15. Hartzler supporters say that means Skelton no longer has the VFW PAC’s endorsement. But Skelton supporters note the PAC’s actions were not erased by the VFW national commander’s actions.

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