Some Missouri Republicans and business groups argue Ms. Steelmandoes not deserve conservative support because she sided with trial lawyer and organized labor interests against fellow Republicans when tort reform and changes to the state’s workmen’s compensation laws were being debated.
“In 2003, we had a real opportunity to pass comprehensive tort reform,” said Dan Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, “and Sarah Steelman made it her personal mission to kill it.”
She was also the only Republican to vote against workmen’s compensation reform bill, a fact Mr. Akin has pointedly noted on the campaign trail.
Despite that, the 54-year-old Ms. Steelman, an evangelical Christian who calls herself a “constitutionalist conservative,” has won an impressive array of valuable conservative endorsements this year, including Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express, a political action committee with close ties to the former Alaska governor. Conservative women’s advocacy and funding groups, including Maggie’s List, theSusan B. Anthony Candidate Fund, ShePAC and the Value in Electing Women (VIEW) PAC have also endorsed Ms. Steelman over her male rivals.
Sam Steelman, Ms. Steelman’s son and deputy campaign manager, countered that his mother had voted for measures such as limiting medical malpractice, banning cities from suing gun makers and denying benefits to workers fired for showing up drunk or high on drugs.
Mr. Steelman also argued the proposed tort bill that his mother opposed was far from perfect.
“The 2003 bill that she voted against contained a provision that would protect drunk drivers from being liable in some instances,” he said.