Kirkwood, an upscale suburb of St. Louis, is not Tea Party territory. Most of the local Republicans would be offended to be represented by a class clown like Ed Martin. They’d prefer instead to have a class act, and they figure that their Republican rep, Rick Stream, is that. He showed tact and a gentle sense of humor when he opened the recent candidate forum with his opponent, Deb Lavender, with a compliment:

As Deb mentioned, she is a physical therapist, and several of my supporters have gone to her for help. And they say she’s good. So, one of my goals in winning this election is to keep Deb here a hundred percent of the time, so that she can continue to provide services to people who need them.

What a nice fella.

And reasonable, too. Someone not knowledgeable about the issues could have listened to the two of them at the forum and come away believing that their differences were not huge. ‘They’re both nice people with our interests at heart, I guess,’ this uninformed listener would think. ‘Stream says that he’s concerned about job growth. So does Lavender. No big difference there. And Stream agrees with Lavender that green jobs are a good thing–as long as those businesses pursue growth without depending on our limited government resources. That sounds reasonable.’

The Kirkwood state rep is, on the surface, pleasant and moderate, no nutcase like Ed Martin. After all, how threatening does tort reform sound or the idea of letting insurance companies operate across state lines? Our imaginary average Joe would be puzzled to be told that those are red herrings, not solutions.

Nor would Joe understand that Stream’s scientific sounding phrase, “market driven health care reform”, means, loosely translated, ‘let the insurance companies ride roughshod over us and drag the economy down with exorbitant premiums.’

But Joe, did you notice that Stream claimed that insurance companies make “very low” profits compared to corporations in other industries? Did you notice that many in the audience gasped and then laughed? That’s because they understand how greedy those health insurance companies are. Deb Lavender, on the other hand, said that insurance companies make the second highest profits, next to oil companies, of any industry in the country.

Here’s the bottom line about that exchange: Stream gives big business a pass. Lavender cares about what big business is doing to people.

In fact, as reasonable as Stream can make himself sound, he is worse than just a defender of corporate malfeasance; he is cold. Oh yes, sure, I heard him say Tuesday night that after we pay for education:

We need to take care of those that can’t help themselves–the mentally ill, the handicapped, the very very poor, mothers with young children–those are the people we should take care of first, and then work our way up the scale.

He almost sounds compassionate enough to be a Democrat. Until you remember that last year he voted with the Republican majority and defended their position when they turned down $100 million abso-freakin’-lutely free dollars annually for health care for the poorest in our state. At the time, I wrote, about all those hundreds of millions of pennies we wouldn’t see:

The Missouri Hospital Association is willing–nay, wanting–to give the state more than fourteen million dollars ($14,150,000 to be precise) to be used for health care for Missourians making less than half the poverty wage. That investment would bring in another $91.7 million in federal dollars–almost $104 million altogether. But the Republicans oppose giveaways to those church mice.

Although Stream doesn’t protect the poor, he does well at protecting his political career, even if that means being unscrupulous:

Stream is respected in his home town as a man of integrity. But he has allied himself with Jetton by hiring the Rodfather as a political consultant. Until Jetton hit the skids this year, he was at the center of dealings that worked like this: Jetton had most of the Republican leadership signed up as clients of his political consulting firm, Common Sense Conservative Consulting (CCC). That way, when supporters of an issue brought a bill forward, it would be defeated. But then those supporters would be encouraged to make sizable campaign contributions to the right Republicans (aka, Jetton clients) and bingo, the next year, that issue would pass.

It was pure sleaze. And anyone who wanted to be part of the inner circle in the House was expected to sign on. Stream signed on.

Lavender, on the other hand, promised Tuesday night to take no gifts, no meals, and no trips from lobbyists.

So, Mr. Average Joe, let me just point out that your supposedly even handed, high minded state rep wanted no cheese for those church mice, but he was knee deep in cheesy deals to help himself. I don’t care how gentlemanlike he appears. Actions speak louder than words.