Carnahan over Clay; Our View; Neither Candidate Inspires, but Records Matter; ELECTIONS 2012; 1st Congressional District; OPINION

Article excerpt

On Aug, 7, a lot of St. Louis Democrats will face a heart- wrenching decision.

In the 1st Congressional District primary, they'll have to choose between two incumbent congressmen who many have supported for a decade or more. The two candidates, William Lacy Clay Jr. and Russ Carnahan, are friends, or used to be. Both have been solid Democratic votes in a Congress in which those are increasingly tough to come by.

For many, it will be a tough call. It's a tough one for us, too.

But it's not because we're enthralled with either of the two men, both of whom we have previously endorsed. It's the opposite - neither of them is an overwhelming choice. Both of them have family legacies to uphold, but neither has the talent or the stature of his predecessor.

The most interesting nugget that came out of our meetings with the two Democrats was something Mr. Carnahan said as a not-so-thin- veiled jab at Mr. Clay:

"You can't rest on a legacy," he said. "That's not good enough."

Those sharp words slice like a double-edged sword.

In his six terms in the House, Mr. Clay has coasted on the organization that his father and predecessor built but without being as deeply and continuously involved in local issues as Bill Clay was. The elder Clay had been a civil rights pioneer, an alderman, a crusader and a street-smart guy.Lacy spent some time in the minors in Jefferson City and thensat down in a nice warm seat.

Similarly, Mr. Carnahan won the 2004 primary to succeed the powerful and effective Richard A. Gephardt mostly on the power of his last name. He's proven to lack both the gravitas and influence of either his father, former Gov. Mel Carnahan, or his congressional predecessor.

Voters are tired of the same old thing, the same old names, the usual suspects who treat politics as a family sinecure. It's too bad that St. Louis Democrats don't have a better candidate who has a fresh story to tell.

It's not good enough.

But voters have to chose. So do we.

We choose Russ Carnahan.

Here's why:

- Mr. Clay got a seat on the House Financial Services Committee and used it sell out his constituents, many of them black and poor, to the predatory rent-to-own industry. He failed in his most important duty, serving the people. He tells us a new version of the bill he champions is better than the bad one he refused to talk about when the Post-Dispatch reported on his support of it in February. But there is simply no defending a bill that would block states from requiring such stores to disclose their rates to consumers. Mr. Clay should have fought for financial literacy and affordable credit instead of helping rent-to-own stores rip off his constituents while pocketing thousands in campaign cash from the industry. …