Missouri taxpayers recently boosted Republican state Rep. Sara Walsh’s re-election campaign, paying $2,600 for a mass mailing on her behalf to more than 15,000 registered voters in her central Missouri district.
On Thursday, Oct. 18, nineteen days before the general election, Walsh’s district directory–designed, printed and mailed at taxpayers’ expense–began arriving in her voters’ mailboxes. The well-timed maneuver could tilt the election to her advantage.
Walsh wants all the help she can get. She won her seat by only 302 votes in a special election in August of last year. She’s facing the same opponent in the general election for the 50th District, Democrat Michela Skelton.
In only one year in the House, Walsh has voted against many people in her district on issues relating to ethics, health care and workers’ rights. For example, she supported an anti-labor “right to work” constitutional amendment, yet a few months later voters in her district overwhelmingly defeated “right to work.”
In another anti-worker vote, Walsh sided with those who wanted to eliminate Missouri’s prevailing wage law, a move that would shrink paychecks throughout the state.
Walsh also voted to repeal a law that allowed the Missouri Ethics Commission to launch independent investigations on its own authority. And she rejected funding for prescription drug coverage for 60,000 low-income senior citizens.
Walsh is also hoping voters have forgotten her association with the scandal-plagued former Republican governor, Eric Greitens. While other House members, including fellow Republicans, were calling for Greitens to step down because of his conduct, Walsh remained silent.
Walsh’s positions that differ from those of her constituents aren’t mentioned in her taxpayer-paid puff piece. The booklet also doesn’t mention that although it’s taxpayer funded, the timing makes it clear the purpose is to support her campaign.
Walsh’s office ordered the directory last March 7, but asked that mailing be delayed until Oct. 16. The choice of date implies the booklet is intended to get around a House rule. That rule, in Walsh’s case, would have prevented her from mailing anytime later than that date.
If Walsh were genuinely interested in the education of her constituents, why did she delay distribution for six months?
The district directory is an effective tool for boosting name recognition, especially since voters received it shortly before the Nov. 6 general election.
One man who lives near Hartsburg in Walsh’s district thought the mailing had to be illegal given its timing. But in fact the distribution just did meet the House requirement.
Each House member receives a $700 monthly allotment that may be used for office expenses including district mailings. The postage for the mailing was charged against that account. A House official said the printing cost of Walsh’s directory could not be easily itemized.
Walsh, 39, lives in Ashland with her husband, Steve Walsh, who is the press aide for Republican Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler. The 50th state House District covers most of Moniteau County, and includes parts of Boone, Cole and Cooper counties
The special election that Walsh won filled a vacancy created by the departure of then-Rep. Caleb Jones, who had been named deputy chief of staff to now-former Gov. Greitens.
Walsh was reluctant to criticize Greitens when he was first indicted on Feb. 22. While other lawmakers were calling on Greitens to resign, Walsh was noncommittal.
Then in May, a special House committee released a special investigative report that contained lurid descriptions of Greitens’ conduct. These disclosures prompted even more lawmakers to call for Greitens to step down, but not Walsh.
The Boone County Journal criticized Walsh for failing to take a stand. “The evidence provided by her esteemed colleagues tells us that Greitens can no longer provide effective, moral leadership.”
In the give-and-take during the closing days of the general election, Greitens’ name seldom comes up. Walsh wants to keep it that way. Walsh hopes her district directory puts a positive spin on her performance, which is negative for many of her constituents.
Those constituents can tell Rep. Walsh at the ballot box what they think of her peculiar record and her use of taxpayers’ funds to campaign.