COLUMBIA, Mo. – Democratic 19th Senate District nominee Judy Baker today called out her Republican opponent’s campaign for lying about her record in government and as a healthcare administrator.
Caleb Rowden’s candidate committee and PAC are airing ads on television and social media and sending mailers to voters across the district attacking Baker’s career. Rowden’s PAC, Missouri Forward, can accept unlimited campaign contributions from special interests like the insurance industry.
“Mid-Missourians are among the most educated and politically aware citizens in our state, and they can see through the fiction put out by my opponent’s campaign and his PAC,” Baker said. “I welcome discussion of the issues that are most important to our voters — their family’s ability to access affordable healthcare, whether they’ll benefit from our economic recovery, and whether their say in government will be protected. These attacks from my opponent are an attempt to distract from his own record on Medicaid expansion and Clean Missouri, and his party’s failure to respond effectively to COVID-19.”
Medicaid expansion passed in 2020 with 63% of the vote in Senate District 19, while Clean Missouri passed in 2018 with 72% approval in the district. Rowden has opposed both Medicaid expansion and Clean Missouri, putting him out of step with the people of the district.
Baker also responded to attacks on her performance as an administrator for MU’s University Physicians and the regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as statements regarding her support for critical programs and services while serving as a state legislator from 2005-2008. The campaign fliers containing the accusations were funded and distributed by the Missouri Forward PAC. TV ads with similar attacks were funded by Rowden’s candidate committee.
Hired in 2000 as interim director of operations and then promoted to executive director for University Physicians (UP), Baker was “brought in to fix” – in then-state Auditor Claire McCaskill’s words – existing problems with the faculty practice plan, including $2 million in uncollected patient and insurance debt. As interim director, Baker addressed the underlying issues that led to the problem and followed sound financial practices to remove from the books the old debts that would have been expensive and futile to collect.
“These are tired attacks that were rebutted years ago when I ran for Congress. Rowden is just one more in a line of Republican politicians who’ve lied about me and about Sen. McCaskill in order to avoid talking about their own records and positions,” Baker said.
McCaskill herself called the Republican attacks on Baker “deceptive.” Quoted in the Oct. 29, 2008 Columbia Tribune, she denied that her audit was “critical of the work that Judy Baker had done” in the way that the Republicans had alleged. McCaskill pointed out that the financial problems at the physicians groups predated Baker’s arrival, and that in fact, Baker was “brought in to assess and help fix” those problems.
UP Vice Chair, Michael LeFevre, M.D., also weighed in on Baker’s record in 2008: “Her leadership skills, business acumen and healthcare expertise proved immensely valuable to the organization. She advocated for our patients and medical professionals to transform the way we delivered quality healthcare. For University Physicians and its patients, she was part of the solution,” he wrote in a letter to the editor of the Columbia Missourian published Oct. 29, 2008.
From 2009-2011, Baker served as director of the four-state HHS Region VII. Her opponent’s campaign fliers contend that this high-level position was one in which she “personally profited” from the Affordable Care Act simply by drawing a salary. The federal health act wasn’t implemented at that point.
“It’s just a silly attack. I was doing my job, and I was no more profiting from tax dollars than Caleb Rowden has from the $300,000 he’s collected from state of Missouri taxpayers while in office,” she said. “I was focused on improving healthcare access by, for example, helping low-income families obtain insurance coverage through services like the Children’s Health Insurance Program and ensuring oversight of insurance companies.”
While Rowden and his fellow Republicans have no healthcare solutions to offer, Baker predicted they will go to great efforts to stonewall voter-approved Medicaid expansion in 2021, blocking the will of the majority of Missourians who approved it.
“Millions of dollars in federal support already have gone to other states because our legislature didn’t act and had to be overridden by the voters,” she said. “We can’t afford to let Republicans like Caleb Rowden keep dragging their feet in implementing Medicaid expansion. Too many lives are at stake.”
Another mailing refers to various appropriations bills Baker voted against during her two terms in the House. “I was the ranking member of the education and health committees. My record on support for public education, healthcare, social services, and infrastructure is clear and consistent,” she said. “Typically, any no vote I ever had on education would have been because there was not enough funding for public education in the bill.”
Received state appropriations for the University of Missouri System reached an all-time high in FY2008-09, when Baker represented Columbia in the state legislature. Baker is an MU alum, with a Bachelor’s degree in Education and a Master’s degree in Health Administration, and has also taught at the university.
Baker has been endorsed by the Missouri National Education Association, the Missouri State Teachers Association, Better Schools for Missouri, the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals, the Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals, the Missouri Association of School Administrators, the Missouri Association of School Business Officials, and the Missouri Council of Career and Technical Administrators.