Missouri Gov. Bob Holden’s loss in his Democratic primary Tuesday showed the continuing importance of fiscal issues in state-level politics. Holden tried repeatedly to pass a tax increase to balance the state’s budget but was rebuffed by an increasingly Republican state legislature. Then he withheld state funds to localities until after many of them raised their property taxes to compensate, after which he released the money. State Auditor Claire McCaskill questioned Holden’s leadership and fiscal decisions and said that she would use her experience to find wasteful and duplicative spending to cut to balance the budget without tax increases. Aided by strong turnout among conservative rural voters — who didn’t like Holden on tax or highway issues and were likely in favor of Tuesday’s successful constituational amendment banning same-sex marriage — McCaskill won the Democratic nomination despite being outspent by nearly two-to-one.
This is basically good news for fiscal conservatives, who should welcome the emergence of Democrats promising not to raise taxes (as the new Democratic governors in places such as Illinois and Tennessee did in 2002). Of course, it isn’t particularly good news for Republicans in Missouri, as it would have been easier for GOP nominee Matt Blunt to defeat Holden in November.