By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Elaine Taylor hopes that last year's election losses for area Democrats could be "a wake up call" for the party faithful.
Taylor, a long-time Democrat from Shelbyville, was in the Shelby County hospitality room at Missouri Democrat Days on Friday afternoon. She and Max Conrad, also of Shelbyville, said it was a big blow to the party when incumbent House members Paul Quinn, D-Monroe City and Tom Shively, D-Shelbyville, lost re-election bids after redistricting pulled them into new districts.
"They're a couple of good guys who did a lot for our area," Conrad said.
Around the pool of the Hannibal Inn, other Democrats were listening to music or dining at a buffet spread during Friday's early bird party.
"We've got about 300 for the banquet (Saturday) night. Maybe we'll have 450 in and out of here tonight," said Debbie Jackson, one of the event organizers.
The snowy weather has slowed registration at the 42nd annual Democrat Days. Attendees say the crowds are generally lighter in non-election years, such as this.
Jackson said Missouri Secretary of Agriculture Jon Hagler was selected as the keynote speaker at the Saturday banquet to pique the interest of people living in a strong agricultural area.
Missouri Young Democrats will be attending as well, adding energy and a new generation of party faithful, Jackson said. She said Secretary of State Jason Kander, the youngest statewide office holder at age 31, also will be the top speaker at Saturday's brunch. Gov. Jay Nixon will speak during the morning event.
Democrat Days is one of the first party confabs each year and is popular with politicians as well as rank-and-file supporters.
"It's really a grass roots thing. It's exciting for people to see our state officials in town and be able to say hi, or express their concerns," Jackson said.
Steve Garner of Palmyra is a member of the pipefitters union said one of his concerns is the Missouri General Assembly's efforts to eliminate the state's prevailing wage. Legislation has been proposed that would eliminate the need to pay a certain level of wages for public works contracts.
"Prevailing wage is not just for union guys," Garner said.
He believes if the prevailing wage law is eliminated there will be fly-by-night contractors doing jobs with low-skilled workers who do shoddy projects.
Doug Piant of Jefferson City and a member of the sheet metal workers union said right-to-work efforts concern him, too. Right-to-work rules would bar contracts that make union dues a condition of employment. Republican leaders in the Missouri Legislature decided to float the idea after Michigan passed a similar measure. Union leaders see the move as an effort to hobble organized labor.
Not everybody at the event was a dyed in the wool Democrat. Betty Parsons Miller of the Uptown Strings Band said she has always thought of herself as an independent voter.
"I vote for the person that's best for the job," Miller said.
Jackson hopes bringing Democratic office holders to the event will give people a chance to become acquainted with the politicians and decide whether they're best suited for the job.