Farr Out Campaign

A loose-lipped former train conductor is looking to get his long-shot congressional bid on track

"Past trends have shown that more African-American voters are embracing the Republican message," says state GOP spokesman Paul Sloca, "so having Leslie Farr on the ticket obviously doesn't hurt."

For his part, Farr sees his campaign as at least partially symbolic.

"I want to make known that each individual is different. I always remind people: You've got good Republicans and bad Republicans, good Democrats and bad Democrats.

"All of my African-American friends remember Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms picking apart 2 Live Crew and Bill O'Reilly picking on Ludacris," Farr says. "But Ludacris is one of my favorite rappers! Every Republican is different. We're a large party with varying opinions.

"The Republican Party falls more in tune with traditional African-American values on things like abortion, taxes, school choice and gay marriage," he continues. "If you asked an African-American person on the street what they believed in, they would probably agree with those."

Farr says Democrats have done wrong by blacks in a number of other ways, most recently with a bill -- co-sponsored by Clay and other black Democrats -- to reinstate the draft.

"I think it was a bill put there to scare people," Farr says, echoing a common misconception in the black community that the Bush administration plans to bring back the draft. "Nobody wants a draft again. Their goal is to scare black votes from Bush." House Republicans recently brought the bill to a vote, and it was defeated 402-2. Even Clay voted against it.

Farr says his campaign is focused on "good government," on putting aside partisan differences and improving the quality of life for the type of people who live in his neighborhood. His campaign slogan is "Principle and policy over politics." But he's had trouble getting his message out and building name recognition. In fact, a volunteer who answered the phone at the Missouri Republican State Committee in Jefferson City thought Leslie Farr was a woman.

Part of his recognition problem, Farr contends, has been the lack of one-on-one encounters with his opponent. Farr offered to arrange an evening debate at a north St. Louis church, but Clay declined, preferring to make a joint appearance at a Creve Coeur-Olivette Chamber of Commerce campaign forum breakfast on October 21.

"He was like, 'People will see us there, don't you think?' and I was like, 'Lacy, it's 7:30 in the morning in Creve Coeur on a weekday! If you live in north St. Louis, it would be hard to get there. It's gonna be a stretch for me to get there, and I have to be there!"

Says Clay spokesman Steven Engelhardt: "The candidate feels that is an adequate exchange."

Where an adequate political exchange is not taking place is among St. Louis blacks, who, Farr says, "blindly" vote Democratic. And that, he adds, is partially the fault of the GOP.

"They're going to have to come into the African-American community, going to have to shake some hands," he says. For Republicans to make inroads with the black community in our lifetime, Farr maintains, they're going to have to get out of their comfort zones.

"Statewide candidates -- you can't afford to ignore the metro area. You've got to come and present your case. There are going to be some doors slammed in your face, but you have to be dedicated to it," he says. "It may be too late in this election, but it may be worth a try."

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