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On Wednesday, Blaine Luetkemeyer and Judy Baker squared off in a debate at Barat Academy in St. Charles County. Both were articulate and forceful. I wish I’d had access to the dozens of Academy students in the audience afterwards to get their take on who won the debate for the Ninth Congressional Seat, but the bottom line would probably have been: all depends on your own ideology and concerns–because Luetkemeyer didn’t pretend to be anything but a Republican.

Asked how he would revive the moribund housing industry, he said he wants to extend the Bush tax cuts. Otherwise, he believes, we’ll lose 20,000 jobs in Missouri alone, and people will have trouble meeting their mortgage payments. We need to keep businesses here in the United States. They’re leaving, why? Because of all that pesky regulation. Hoo boy, not even John McCain would dare spout that line these days. Maybe Luetkemeyer figures high school students don’t understand enough about the current eonomic crisis to doubt his wisdom.

Or maybe he’s just sticking by what he’s always believed. He’s principled. And principally, he’s in love with big business. Including big ag. He spoke proudly of his endorsements by the Farm Bureau and the Soybean Association.  

He abhors legislators who think big government is the “do all and be all”, and likes what he refers to as the “private sector”. He favors privatizing Social Security and sees taxes not as a solution but as the problem. You know. Standard GOP line.

Baker, too, stood for her party’s values. Like Obama, she wants to tax the wealthiest more and give tax cuts to everyone else. She wants money in the pockets of workers because they are “the gas in this nation’s economic engine.” And being a nurse, she stresses health care. When she was allowed to ask Luetkemeyer a question of her own, she wanted to know why, with insurance companies making record profits, why he thinks it’s OK to let insurance companies drop preventive measures like mammograms and other cancer screenings.

Luetkemeyer was unapologetic. He insisted that mandates for preventive care raise our health care rates by 25 percent. What he wants is affordability and accessibility, and he pointed out that as a state legislator he promoted a bill that would have let people with pre-existing conditions get insurance.

Baker’s attitude was:

“It costs a whole lot more, Blaine, to treat cancer than to spring for a mammogram. How often do we get the chance to save lives and money at the same time?”

Judy Baker, in short, realizes what the real problems are that face us. She is looking toward solving the twin problems of energy and climate change. She stressed the need for a modernized electrical grid so that energy produced by windmills in northern New York can be transported to New York City. Judy said we need a new superhighway for energy. I couldn’t agree more.

Blaine Luetkemeyer, on the other hand, is a grumpy old Republican, complaining about “failed liberal–he practically held his nose when he said the word–leadership” that has, in its two years of controlling Congress, seen unemployment go up and people’s grocery bills rise by $70 a month.

Well, I see him as a grumpy old Republican. We’ll find out, in 2 1/2 weeks whether voters in the Ninth agree.