This article is third in a series of HUMAN EVENTS profiles featuring newly elected conservatives in the House of Representatives.
In discussing the chances of former state legislator Blaine Luetkemeyer to win the Republican nomination for Congress in Missouri’s open 9th District last year, I mentioned to Show-Me State Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder that the candidate had a “bad ballot name.” Luetkemeyer himself all but explicitly admitted that when he named his campaign committee “Blaine for Congress” because, he said, “that would be easier on folks writing checks.”
But Kinder didn’t see the name that appeared so troublesome to spell and pronounce (“Loot-ka-my-er”) as politically fatal for the former lawmaker and state director of tourism. As Kinder told me, “They know Blaine well from his years in the legislature and from his race for state treasurer in ’04 [when the St. Elizabeth farmer lost the Republican nomination but carried the 9th District]. As for his last name, they’ll just spell it ‘C-O-N-S-E-R-V-A-T-I-V-E.’”
They did. Running as an unabashed conservative on cultural and economic issues, Blaine Luetkemeyer topped a four-candidate primary with 40% of the vote, carrying 16 out of 23 counties. In November, the farmer-candidate faced Democratic State Rep. Judy Wagner, whom he branded a “true Nancy Pelosi liberal.” This race was much closer, with the conservative hopeful edging the liberal Wagner by about 8,000 votes.
So why did Luetkemeyer have a closer-than-expected race in a district that had been in Republican hands since 1996?
“Because we have the University of Missouri in Boone County and, just days before the election, Barack Obama came in, got all the college kids and the community around the college excited, and they turned out.” So Luetkemeyer told me from his home last week, between attempts to shovel his way out after a blizzard had hit. “The turnout in the college community was about 12% higher than two years before. But, hey, we won, and I’m just glad to win.”
In discussing his agenda in the coming Congress, Luetkemeyer displayed the same plain-spoken views that had made him a popular figure among conservatives during his stint in Jefferson City. Regarding the proposed bailout of the auto industry, the Missourian said: “No, it’s not restructuring the auto industry, just giving them something. I won’t even consider voting for any bailout until I have some evidence the industry will change its way of doing business.”
He also underscored his campaign pledge never to vote for a new tax or tax increase. In Luetkemeyer’s words, “It’s a serious error to raise taxes and suck money out of the economy when we’re in bad economic times.”
But any conversation with Luetkemeyer usually includes a discussion of agriculture. That’s a big part of his life. After graduating from high school, he bought a cattle farm. By the time he sold it, the farm had grown to 160 acres.
“The concept of ‘Freedom to Farm’ is wonderful,” he told me. “Eventually phasing out subsidies to farmers is great. In a growing number of cases, subsidies keep some wealthy folks in the business of farming who shouldn’t be there. But for now, we have to help farmers put something beneath them. Fertilizer costs are up and just last month the average cost of groceries went up $70. Right now, if we didn’t help the farmers, they would be at the mercy of all the sheiks around the world.”
As his constituents came to know, they may not always agree with Blaine Leutkemayer, but they will always find him a lawmaker who speaks his mind and is willing to listen. And those are qualities that Congress, now with modern low voter approval, is sorely in need of.