Woman of the Week: Claire McCaskill

Natalie Pate

Women make up 51% of the population, 17% of Congress, and 0% of past presidents.


Name: Claire Conner McCaskill

Born: July 21, 1953 (age 59)

Current Office: United States Senator from Missouri

Political Party: Democratic Party

Residence: St. Louis, Missouri

Education: Bachelor of Arts (Political Science), University of Missouri; Juris Doctor, University of Missouri School of Law


Why she is the Woman of the Week: She might have been accused of not being sufficiently “ladylike”, but there is no debate that this lady is accomplished. Besides a short 3-year stint as a private-practice attorney, McCaskill has worked continuously as a public servant since her graduation from law school in 1978. In addition to her 30-year record of public service she has also shown a bold tendency to challenge and defeat incumbents—even within her own party. She took on fellow Democrat and sitting Jackson County Prosecutor Riederer in 1992 and won. While running for governor in 2004 she defeated Democratic incumbent Governor Bob Holden in the primary and then narrowly lost in the general election. She then defeated incumbent Jim Talent in the 2006 Senate race, a critical toss-up race that allowed Democrats retake the Senate. In 1987, she became the first sitting representative to give birth while holding office in the Missouri state legislature. She was the first woman elected as Jackson County prosecutor, the largest prosecutor’s office in the state. The 2006 Senate victory also made her the first woman in Missouri elected to the office. In a time of extreme party polarization, she has proven to be one of the most moderate Senators in Congress during her time in office, consistently ranked as one of the ten most moderate Senators and the second most likely to vote against her party.

Background: Claire Conner has lived in Missouri all of her life. She resided in Houston, MO where her father worked as at the McCaskill & Sons feed mill until the family moved to Lebanon, MO.  There, her mother’s family ran a corner drugstore. Both of her parents served in the public sector – her father as the state Insurance Commissioner and her mother on the City Council of Columbia. Conner attended high school in Columbia where she was heavily involved in school activities like debate club, cheerleading, Pep club – she was even elected homecoming queen. She graduated near the top of her class and went on to earn her B.A. and J.D. at the University of Missouri. She worked as a waitress for six years to help put herself through school. After graduation she went to Kansas City and worked as a research attorney for the Missouri Court of Appeals and later as an assistant criminal prosecutor for Jackson County. In 1982 McCaskill got involved in politics when she was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives. From here she was elected to the Jackson County Legislature, after which she successfully ran for Jackson County Prosecutor in 1992 and was reelected in 1996. As County Prosecutor she combated domestic violence, child abuse, and drug issues like Kansas City’s serious meth problems. She was elected State Auditor in 1999, and, after an unsuccessful bid for the governorship in 2004, she won her race for the U.S. Senate in 2006. She is currently running for reelection against Todd Akin, recently known for his remarks on “legitimate rape” and comparing McCaskill to a “wildcat” after her less-than-“ladylike” performance in their debate.

Key Issues: In the Senate, McCaskill focuses her efforts on government reform and accountability. She has sworn not to use earmarks and is against pork barrel spending. She sits on four Senate Committees—Armed Services, Commerce, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Aging. From those committees, she’s taken on increased independence for Inspectors General, credit card regulations, reforms to the reverse mortgage industry, consumer protections, and full benefits and resources for veterans and wounded active service members. She voted in favor of the Affordable Care Act and the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal Act, while voting against her party by rejecting the Keystone Pipeline Amendment.

Her Latest Headline: “McCaskill surges in polls as Akin’s abortion comments draw fire” – The Kansas City Star

“I don’t know exactly what his accusation that I am not ‘ladylike’ means. I am a former courtroom prosecutor and I try to be strong and informed…maybe he wasn’t prepared to answer.”

[Image Credit: http://cdn1.teapartytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Claire-McCaskill.jpg]