Being the minority party in the Missouri Legislature, the Democrats have had a hard time focusing on their priorities in Jefferson City.

That was the message from 82nd District Rep. Jill Schupp, a Democrat from the Creve Coeur area, who was the keynote speaker at the Truman Day banquet Saturday evening.

The Franklin County Democratic Central Committee sponsors the annual banquet, which took place at the Union Knights of Columbus Hall this year. The banquet’s theme was “Coming Together.”

Out of 163 state representatives, Schupp is one of 56 Democrats and one of about 41 women in the state House of Representatives.

“I feel a little isolated. My voice isn’t being heard like the way I want it to be,” she told a crowd of about 100 people.

Being the minority party in the House has made things difficult to focus on the Democrats’ five priorities — good paying jobs, protection for workers, great schools, access to health care and helping people move out of poverty, Schupp said.

Instead, she said Republican legislators are focusing on the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” which prevents the teaching of sexual orientation in schools except for certain health classes.

“We don’t fund education, but we expect more from our teachers,” Schupp said.

She also talked about legislation that would offer tax deductions to donors who give to scholarship organizations that are then given to private schools.

Schupp said that bill would take public taxpayers’ dollars and spend it on private schools.

“It doesn’t make sense, but that’s the kind of laws we’re working on,” she said. “Virtually nothing is getting done up there (in Jefferson City).

“We even have a legislator from this area who is proposing to go back to the gold standard.”

She was referring to a bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Curtman that would make gold and silver legal tender in the state.

Schupp criticized Republicans for turning away $50 million in federal funds that would have been used for upgrades to computer systems for the Affordable Health Care for America Act.

“That money was yours and mine,” she said. “We need to send more Democrats (to Jefferson City). Let’s see this place turn blue.”

Schupp said having Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon has been beneficial, but noted that because there are 106 Republicans in the House and 109 votes are needed to overturn a governor’s veto, she said it just takes three Democrats to stray from party lines.

Schupp said that straying happened when the U.S. congressional district map for Missouri was passed. She noted that out of the eight seats for U.S. representatives in Missouri, only two will likely be filled by Democrats.

“Every seat we win matters,” she said.

While Schupp said she gets frustrated sometimes, she noted that Democrats can win back seats by working with local Democratic candidates, investing in their campaigns and doing both of those things now.

Democrat of the Year

Also during the banquet, Darin Gilley won the 2012 Democrat of the Year award.

Gilley writes for a labor blog on the county Democrats’ website, has worked on political campaigns and served as former state Rep. Michael Frame’s treasurer.

Additionally, he has worked with Jobs for Justice, the AFL-CIO, Alliance for American Manufacturing, Coalition for Labor Union Women and UAW.

Gilley and Patricia Schuba, of the Labadie Environmental Organization, were finalists for the award.

Also at the dinner, Heather Castelli, a senior at Pacific High School, won the 2012 Truman Day essay contest. She won a $100 VISA gift card and three tickets to the dinner. She is the daughter of Sandy Seress and Bart Castelli.

Candidates Speak

In addition to Schupp, attendees heard from Judy Baker, a Democratic candidate running for lieutenant governor.

Baker was a two-term state representative and lost a close election in 2008 to Republican Blaine Luetkemeyer for U.S. Congress.

Additionally, a representative from Nixon’s campaign spoke as did Eric C. Mayer, Camdenton, the only Democrat running for the new 3rd Congressional District.

Among the local Democratic candidates who spoke were Ann Schroeder, who is running for state representative in the 109th District; Teresa Connelly, who is running for Second District county commissioner, a seat currently held by Schroeder; Mary Jo Straatmann, who is running for public administrator; and Angela J. Beckett, who is running for county assessor.

Current Public Administrator Carol Eckelkamp, who is not seeking re-election this year, also spoke. Eckelkamp is finishing her 20th year as county public administrator.

“I love the people and that’s the only thing that bothers me about not continuing,” she said.