Conflict over missed votes deepens rancor in Carnahan, Clay primary battle
WASHINGTON – Now that the state Supreme Court has dismissed challenges to the redrawn 1st congressional district, the gloves are off in the primary battle between incumbent U.S. Reps. Russ Carnahan and William Lacy Clay, both D-St. Louis.
Late Thursday, Carnahan’s campaign blasted Clay for missing important votes late this week, including amendments related to the intelligence bill and project labor agreements.
But Clay fired back, explaining that “the House Democratic leadership excused my absence to allow me to return home to St. Louis to attend my daughter's high school graduation.”
Clay added in a statement: “If my opponent wants to accuse me of being a devoted father, he can go right ahead.”
Records of the clerk of the House indicate that Clay voted until mid-afternoon Thursday – including a key vote against the controversial Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act, which was defeated – but missed several votes later that day and was not casting votes Friday morning on amendments to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill.
(Click here to see the votes Clay cast and did not cast on May 31 and June 1 listed by date and time.)
While Clay had a legitimate excuse this week, Carnahan’s campaign contended in its news release that “missing votes has been a bit of a habit for Clay... At nearly 10 percent of the votes missed, Clay has the lowest participation rate amongst the Missouri Democratic delegation in the U.S. House since 2005.” The release does not quote Carnahan directly but quotes his campaign spokesman.
Clay’s statement did not address his “missed votes” percentage, but the congresssman lashed out at Carnahan. “It's unfortunate that my opponent's struggling campaign is now resorting to personal attacks, making wild accusations without any basis in fact," said Clay.
An analysis of “missed votes” by U.S. House members by the legislative tracking project GovTrack.us indicates that Clay’s career percentage of missed votes was 7 percent from January 2001 to May of this year, compared to the House median of 2.4 percent. During that period, Clay missed 592 of 8,215 recorded or roll call votes, GovTrack found.
(Click here to see Clay’s overall voting record and a chart showing his percentage of missed votes.)
By comparison, Carnahan has a better than average record on missed votes during his shorter career in the House. From January 2005 to May, Carnahan missed 135 of 5,998 recorded or roll call votes, which is 2 percent.
(Click here to see Carnahan’s voting record and a chart showing his percentage of missed votes.)
While other members of Missouri’s delegation have varying tenures in the House, the average “missed votes” percentage for those who have served more than one term seems to be about 3 percent. That includes U.S. Reps. Todd Akin, R-Wildwood (3 percent missed from 2001 until this May); Jo Ann Emerson (3 percent from 1997); and Emanuel Cleaver, D-Kansas City (3 percent from 2005) However, Rep. Sam Graves, R-Tarkio, missed about 4 percent of votes since 2001.
In southern Illinois, both Reps. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville (from 1988), and John Shimkus, R-Collinsville (from 1997), missed 3 percent of votes.
Clay’s percentage of missed votes is not among the worst. For example, two Chicago Democrats -- U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush and Luis Gutierrez – have among the highest career percentages of missed votes: 13 percent for Rush and 11.6 percent for Gutierrez.