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The Missouri Democratic Party’s (MDP) annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner served up a series of speeches to rally their base on June 7 at the Renaissance Grand Hotel in St. Louis.

 

A slate of Democratic officeholders spoke above the sing-song of silver wear, coffee cups and dining party faithful taking the GOP to task on core issues, including LGBT equality.

 

Introduced by MDP Chair Roy Temple as the youngest elected statewide official in the nation, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander wasted no time in getting the evening underway.

 

“Do you remember that part in Zoolander where Will Ferrell’s character says, ‘I feel like I’m taking crazy pills?’ That’s my life every day during the legislative session,” Kander quipped.

 

Kander took Republicans to task for their inaction on three major issues that he maintained should be the source of their greatest embarrassment: Medicaid expansion, minimum wage and the LGBT-inclusive Missouri Non-discrimination Act or MONA.

 

“Once again this year, the Republican majority in the legislature has blocked legislation that would add sexual orientation to the Missouri Non-discrimination Act,” said Kander. “You can be fired in Missouri for being gay and that’s not right. Missourians and history are on our side and it is just a matter of time we will win.”

 

Missouri State Treasurer Clint Zweifel told the crowd that this year’s legislative session illustrates how extreme Missouri Republicans have become on issues like pay disparity, tax policy, health care and equality.

 

“We actually have some legislators who seem to think it’s not only appropriate but advantageous to allow businesses to deny services to gay Missourians,” said Zweifel. “Now as Democrats, we all know that they are wrong on these issues and that we’re pretty good on them. But successful governing requires more than that. It requires teamwork, it requires successful politics, it requires an openness to new relationships, ideas; it requires strategic vision. And it requires a broader understanding that if we can get the politics just right—governing—truly governing is within reach.”

 

“It’s about promoting a culture that values equality and social justice,” Zweifel continued. “It’s about providing that American dream to everyone that wants it. When we think about what the state looks like in five years or ten or twenty – it depends on which path we start down today.”

 

Heralded as the next Missouri Governor, Attorney General Chris Koster continued the battle cry, calling dinners like Jefferson-Jackson a chance to thank the legislative delegation in the House and Senate for their work to better the stateJJDinner1 without “letting the young, the old, the sick, the poor, our minorities, our gay community or the women of this state be disrespected or sacrificed in the process by the other party.”

 

“I also want to thank them for fighting to pass the Missouri Non-discrimination Act,” said Koster. “It is a bill that is based on the principle that Missourians should never be denied a place to live or a job simply because they are gay. The vast majority of corporations in this country now support non-discrimination and hopefully, one day soon, the Republican party will scrub the discriminatory language from their party’s platform and MONA will support all Missourians equally.”

 

While specific mention of gender identity and the transgender community were lacking from speeches, MONA would extend the existing Missouri Human Rights Statute to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories, thereby prohibiting discrimination against the LGBT community.

 

“I was glad to hear our statewide Democrats embrace equality,” State Rep. Stacey Newman (D – St. Louis) told #Boom. “But I noticed that several key constituencies were absent from the speeches – the transgender community and even women.”

 

“We had over 32 bills this past session which we fought hard, restricting reproductive rights,” Newman continued. “Particularly when talking to fellow Democrats, I felt that every key group in the room should have been acknowledged, at least to remind each other who we fight for. The GOP continues to target LGBT and women's rights and I urge our party's leaders to remember equality belongs to us all.”

 

The evening’s keynote address was delivered by Assistant U.S. Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin who reminded the room that Democrats won’t stop fighting for America. The Illinois lawmaker and East St. Louis native opened up by retelling the story of how he encouraged then U.S. Sen. Barack Obama to run for president.

 

“He said to me, what about Hillary – and that’s the right question,” Durbin recalled. “She’s terrific – her husband too and they’ll be formidable. But you’ll appeal to a different group and she’ll appeal to a different group if we bring those two groups together we’ll take the presidency when it’s all over.”

 

“When it comes to the issues that really matter to America, we’re there,” Durbin continued. “When it comes to minimum wage in Missouri and Illinois and across the nation it’s the Democrats leading that fight. When it comes to fairness in the workplace when it comes to my son or my daughter getting the same job at the same pay – that’s a Democratic position.”

 

Originally scheduled to speak but unable to attend were Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Sen. Claire McCaskill. McCaskill greeted the crowd via recorded video.

 

Over $200,000 has been raised by the MDC for upcoming legislative races in November.

 

“Little by little we are going to rebuilt majorities in this party,” added Koster. “We are going to fund these candidates, we are going to recruit future leaders from across Missouri and we are going to make progress with the goals we all share – a more prosperous Missouri that never loses sight of the voiceless among us.”

 

The evening ended with former U.S. Senator and Missouri first lady Jean Carnahan receiving the MDP Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

“I believe it was Mark Twain who said it’s good to be remembered and even better to be remembered well,” said Carnahan.

 

 



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