Rizzo confident heading into election day, but tensions with KC Building Trades linger


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As Rep. John Rizzo, D-Kansas City, prepares for what looks likely to be a large victory in the Aug. 2 primary for the 11th Senate District, it’s also fair to ask questions about what support from the Kansas City Building Trades Council means for upcoming elections.

Rizzo has been building momentum in a race that was supposed to be close for several weeks now. According to several polls, including a Missouri Times poll earlier this month, Rizzo leads his closest competitor, Jessica Podhola, by at least 25 points.


The Missouri Times poll was taken before Gov. Jay Nixon endorsed Rizzo, but other polling done after the endorsement shows his lead has grown to more than 30 points.

“Everything’s going great. I think there’s been a couple polls out there that kind of show that our hard work is paying off,” Rizzo said.

Rizzo said he’s built his lead through hard work and a positive campaign. He said he’s been out knocking doors every day from 3:00 p.m. to sundown.

“We’re hitting doors every night still, which put us in the position that we’re in now, which obviously is the lead. That was done by hitting doors,” he said. “We’ve clearly outworked our opponent.”

In addition to his work knocking doors, Rizzo made a big TV ad buy in Kansas City that included time on cable networks like ESPN . His ad also appeared on MSNBC during the Democratic National Convention.

Rizzo criticized his opponent and the Greater Kansas City Building and Construction Trades Council for running a negative campaign against him. The labor group endorsed Podhola, government affairs director for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. That support left some questioning why a labor group would go after a candidate with a 100 percent pro-labor record. Rizzo himself has been stung by the rejection.

“I hope that they reward people that stick with labor a lot better than what they have with me,” he said. “Me getting dragged through the mud, getting my family dragged through the mud and everything else. The Greater Kansas City Building Trades should be ashamed.”

The Kansas City Building Trades endorsement could lose political power if Rizzo wins, as he himself pointed out. He doubted he would need their support in a general election if he wins the primary.

“If I’m fortunate enough to win this election after all of the stuff that my opponent from the building trades has put me through, why would anybody ever need their support in the future? It’s clear that you can without them,” Rizzo said. “And not only that you can win without them but that you can win with them attacking you time and time again.”

One attack that had Rizzo reeling was over his vote against a bill that would have prevented local jurisdictions from banning certain dog breeds, like pit bulls. Rizzo was portrayed as anti-dog, but he said he didn’t agree with the way the bill would have worked.

“If people have a problem with how their local ordinances are voted on or whatnot, they should take it up with their city council members that enacted it and not try to bypass their local government and take it to the state level,” he said.

While Rizzo acknowledges his polling lead is significant, he’s still wary of the possibility of losing. He said anything can happen with the negative advertising against him. Still, he’s confident heading into Tuesday’s primary.

“I look forward to election day and this campaign coming to an end. I’m very proud of the positive campaign that we’ve run. I hope that other people are watching this election that had 100 percent pro-labor records to see how the Kansas City Building Trades and the state AFL-CIO reward you for your 100 percent labor records.”