U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill to present Smith lecture

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri will visit Iowa State University on Friday, March 28, to give a public presentation on women, politics and leadership as the spring 2014 Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women and Politics.

McCaskill, who in 2006 became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Missouri, will speak at noon in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union. The presentation, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics.

“Sen. McCaskill is among the record 20 women now serving in the U.S. Senate who have received praise from Republicans and Democrats as well as the media for their bipartisan efforts to solve some of the major issues before Congress,” said Dianne Bystrom, center director. “Although these women do not always agree on the issues, they have demonstrated a willingness to engage in civil discourse and debate. We thought it would be timely to have a female senator share her insights on how women are using their leadership skills in Congress.”

McCaskill has spent most of her career in public service at the county, state and federal level since graduating from the University of Missouri College of Law in 1978. She began her career as an assistant prosecutor in Kansas City, Mo., where she specialized in prosecuting arson and sex crimes. From 1983 to 1989, McCaskill served in the Missouri state legislature, where she chaired the Civil and Criminal Justice Committee. She also was the first woman Missouri state legislator to have a baby while in office, leading her to juggle the responsibilities of lawmaker and mother.

In 1992, McCaskill made history again as the first woman to be elected as Jackson County prosecutor. As head of the largest prosecutor's office in Missouri from 1993 to 1999 – in a region that includes Kansas City – she launched one of the nation's first drug courts and established a first-of-its-kind domestic violence unit aimed at curbing domestic and sexual violence as well as child abuse.

McCaskill returned to statewide public office in 1999, serving as Missouri state auditor through 2006. In 2004, she took on her own Democratic Party establishment to become the first person to ever defeat a sitting Missouri governor in a primary election. McCaskill lost the governor’s race to her opponent in a close general election.

In her first term as U.S. senator, McCaskill focused on legislation implementing historic wartime contracting reforms. Her efforts led to the creation of a new Senate panel charged with contracting oversight. McCaskill also worked to improve health care services for Missouri's veterans. She teamed up with her Republican colleagues to establish a ban on congressional earmarks and has helped lead efforts to repeal automatic pay raises for Congress.

McCaskill was re-elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012, winning her race by more than 15 percentage points – the largest margin for a Missouri Senate candidate in nearly two decades – and earning more votes than any other candidate in the state that year. She currently serves as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee and has helped lead the effort to confront sexual assault in the military and better protect survivors. A recognized technology leader, with a penchant for communicating directly with constituents via Twitter, McCaskill also was named chair of the Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection. McCaskill continues to lead a subcommittee to target waste, fraud and abuse throughout federal contracting. And, she helped lead the effort to renew the Violence Against Women Act.

McCaskill returns home to Missouri nearly every weekend, where she enjoys spending time with her six grandchildren. She and her husband, Joseph, have a blended family of seven children, all but two of whom live in St. Louis.