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Jim Talent

In office
November 25, 2002 – January 3, 2007
Preceded by Jean Carnahan
Succeeded by Claire McCaskill

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's 2nd district
In office
January 3, 1993 – January 3, 2001
Preceded by Joan Kelly Horn
Succeeded by Todd Akin

Born October 18, 1956 (1956-10-18) (age 53)
Des Peres, Missouri
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Brenda Talent
Children Katie Talent
Chrissy Talent
Michael Talent
Residence Chesterfield, Missouri
Alma mater Washington University in St. Louis
University of Chicago
Occupation attorney
Religion Presbyterian (PCA)[1]

James Matthes "Jim" Talent (born October 18, 1956) is an American politician and former Senator from Missouri. He is a Republican and resided in the St. Louis area while serving in elected office. He identifies with the conservative wing of the Republican party, being particularly outspoken on judicial appointments, abortion, flag burning, and defense issues. After serving for eight years in the U.S. House of Representatives and then working as a lobbyist, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002, narrowly defeating Democrat Jean Carnahan in a special election to complete the term to which Carnahan's husband, Mel, had been elected posthumously in 2000.[2] In the November Democratic wave of 2006, Talent lost his re-election bid to Claire McCaskill, 50% to 47%. Talent served as a senior advisor to Mitt Romney's 2008 presidential campaign,[3] and a fellow with the Heritage Foundation.[4]


Personal life

Talent grew up in a middle-class family in Des Peres, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.[5] His father, Milton O. Talent, was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants and was the first in his family to go to college, graduating from Harvard Law School.[6] Jim Talent's mother, Marie F. Matthes, was an independent court reporter who was raised on a small farm near DeSoto, Missouri. Her German ancestors had settled in Jefferson County, Missouri beginning in 1832.

Jim Talent graduated from Kirkwood High School in 1973. He earned his B.A. in political science from Washington University in St. Louis, graduating with the Arnold J. Lien Prize as the most outstanding undergraduate in political science. Jim graduated Order of the Coif from the University of Chicago Law School, receiving his J.D. in 1981. Following law school, he served as a law clerk to Judge Richard A. Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Before winning political office Talent served as an adjunct professor at the Washington University Law school. He married Brenda Lee Lyons in 1984. The Talents have three children, Katie, Chrissy, and Michael.

Talent's interfaith family did not attend religious services,[7] and later in life Talent became a member of the Presbyterian Church in America.[8] He was inspired to become a Christian while listening to one of Luis Palau's radio broadcasts in his car. He pulled over and accepted Jesus Christ into his life then. He refers to it as the moment he "passed from death to life."[9]

Political career

Talent began his political career in 1984 when he was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives. He served four terms there, the last two as minority leader.

House of Representatives

In the 1992 House of Representatives election, Talent easily defeated Bert Walker, the cousin of then-president George H. W. Bush and won the Republican nomination for the state's 2nd Congressional District, based in St. Louis's western suburbs. He went on to defeat Democratic incumbent Joan Kelly Horn in the general election, despite being heavily outspent.

The district had been heavily altered after the 1990 census to preserve large Democratic majorities in the neighboring 1st District of Bill Clay and 3rd District of Dick Gephardt. Horn had appealed for a new map, even asking for a share of St. Louis, but was rebuffed by Clay and Gephardt.

Although Talent won narrowly in 1992, he never had another close race in what rapidly became a solidly Republican district. The only serious challenge he faced came in the 1996 House election, when Horn sought a rematch. Even though popular Democratic Governor Mel Carnahan was running for reelection, Talent dispatched Horn fairly easily, winning 61% of the vote.[10]

As a freshman in the congress, Talent authored and introduced the Welfare Reform Act of 1994, which was the precursor to the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act. Talent served as chairman of the Small Business Committee from 1997 to 2001.

Talent did not seek re-election to Congress in 2000, instead running for governor. He was defeated, very narrowly, by Democratic state Treasurer Bob Holden, 49.1% to 48.2%.[11]

Work as a lobbyist

For ten months in 2001, Talent worked for Washington lobbying firm, Arent Fox[12], earning $230,000. During this time Talent was not allowed to directly lobby Congress, and he was not licensed to practice law in Washington, leading some Democratic opponents to accuse the lobbying firm of using his appointment as an illegal conduit to donate toward his upcoming Senate race.[13] Arent Fox said the idea that Talent was not paid for genuine work was "absurd", but that "Talent's Republican ties did play a role in his hiring."[14]

Election to the Senate

In the November 2000 elections, Mel Carnahan, who had died in a plane crash three weeks before, remained on the ballot for election to the Senate. Carnahan received more votes than his Republican opponent, incumbent senator (and future United States Attorney General) John Ashcroft, who did not legally contest being defeated by a dead candidate. Lieutenant Governor Roger Wilson, as he had promised before the election, appointed Carnahan's widow, Jean, in her husband's place.

The Seventeenth Amendment requires that appointments to the Senate last only until a special election is held. Talent, who received the Republican nomination, narrowly defeated Jean Carnahan in the November 2002 election, 50% to 49%. He was sworn in later that month to fill out the balance of Mel Carnahan's term.[15][16]

Jack Abramoff contributed $2,000 to Talent's 2002 senatorial campaign [10] and Preston Gates & Ellis, a former Abramoff employer, had also contributed $1,000 to Talent's campaign. [11] Talent later returned both contributions [12].

Talent has been criticized for not returning the money received from Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC), a PAC formed by Tom DeLay. DeLay is facing charges of money laundering and violation of campaign finance laws. A spokesman for Talent has stated that Talent has not yet made a decision about whether or not to return the ARMPAC contribution, stating "Senator Talent is not ready to presume guilt or innocence and wants to give the judicial process a chance to move forward." [17] During his tenure, Talent served on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Special Committee on Aging, Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, and Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Political views

Talent is widely regarded by political analysts as a reliable conservative, receiving a life score of 93 out of 100 from the American Conservative Union. The National Right to Life Committee gave Talent a 100% rating.[18] In 2005, Talent was tied for the third-highest rating among all senators and representatives as determined by the Republican Liberty Caucus, which promotes "liberty-minded, limited-government individuals to office." [19] [20]

Flag Desecration Amendment

Talent is a cosponsor of the Flag Desecration Amendment, which would make it constitutional to criminalize flag burning. He argues that this does not conflict with freedom of speech by suggesting that flag burning is not speech. His office has said, "...burning the flag is not speech; it is an act with expressive overtones." [21] Since the constitution clearly protects speech, this distinction is extremely important from a legal standpoint. It is necessary to have a constitutional amendment, rather than a federal law, since the United States Supreme Court has consistently classified flag burning as speech.


Talent supported the new Renewable Fuel Standard, which would add 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuels to the national supply by 2012, including a measure to include tax credits for businesses offering soybean-based fuels. [13] In addition to renewable fuels, Talent supported drilling in the Arctic as a step in the direction of energy independence, which he sees as critical to national security. [22]

Health care

Talent supported the Medicare prescription drug benefit called Medicare Part D, the purpose of which is to reduce the amount seniors pay for their prescription drugs. [23] Talent called for waiving a one percent penalty for senior citizens who missed the deadline to sign up for the program. [24]

Talent voted against an amendment allowing Medicare to negotiate a bulk purchase discount for prescription drugs. [25]

Talent supported limiting awards in medical liability lawsuits. [14] He believes that 'Medical liability relief will cut costs because physicians won’t have to practice “defensive medicine".' [15]

Talent supported and proposed legislation to allow trade organizations to sponsor health insurance plans, which he believes would provide uninsured workers the opportunity for more affordable health care. [16]

Predatory lending

Talent sponsored legislation to cap the annual percentage interest rate for payday loans to military service personnel from an average of around 39% to 36%. [17]

Stem cell research

After joining the Senate in 2002, Talent supported federal legislation that would ban embryonic stem cell research or federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. This included cosponsoring a bill (S.658) [26] sponsored by Senator Sam Brownback, which would ban all forms of human cloning including embryonic therapeutic cloning techniques that are seen as crucial to stem cell research. This law was unnecessary because President Bill Clinton outlawed human cloning in 1998.

On February 10, 2006, Talent withdrew his support for the bill,[27] citing the need to balance research and protection against human cloning. This move followed criticism by Talent's opponent in the 2006 election, Claire McCaskill, as well as pressure from Missouri business interests that oppose restrictions on stem cell research. Though this reversal was criticized as being politically motivated,[28] Talent told the Associated Press, "The technology is changing all the time and so I'm always considering whether there is a better way to strike the balance."[29] Talent suggested that moral concerns might be put to rest through a possible future scientific breakthrough — replicating embryonic stem cells without the use of cloned embryos.

There was a ballot-initiative in Missouri in November 2006 to amend the state constitution and allow, in line with federal law, stem cell research and treatment.[30] On May 1, 2006, Talent announced his opposition to the proposed ballot-initiative.[31] Stem cell research and treatment is working up to be a divisive issue for many Republicans and is taking a particular prominence in Missouri.[32]

In July 2006, he voted against expanding federal funds for embryonic stem cell research in cases where the embryos were donated by fertility clinics or were created for purposes of fertility treatment. [18] This bill passed the Senate 63-37, but was vetoed by President Bush, in a move that was said to have significant political implications for Talent. [19]

Minimum wage

Talent did take a position on the ballot-initiative in Missouri, called Proposition B, that would raise the minimum wage in the state to $6.50 per hour, or to the level of the federal minimum wage if that is higher, with subsequent adjustments for inflation.[30] He said he believed it was a state issue, but stated he supports minimum wage increases if they are coupled with tax breaks for small businesses.[33] Talent believed that increasing the minimum wage could reduce the number of jobs by raising the cost of doing business.[34].


Talent cosponsored the Combat Meth Act with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). The legislation, which was attached to the re authorization of the USA Patriot Act, passed on March 2, 2006 and restricts the sale of products necessary to produce methamphetamines. President Bush signed the Act into law on March 9, 2006. As a result of the Act, certain cold medicines are only to be made available behind the counter and the amount of such medicines that can be purchased by one person is limited.[35]

War in Iraq

Although Talent was not in Congress at the time of the 2002 vote authorizing the war in Iraq, he stated in October 2006 that he would have voted for the war knowing that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Talent did not support a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq until American troops are able to train up an Iraqi army capable of maintaining security within the country.


Talent supported a ban on abortions, with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. [36]


Talent has been outspoken about what he sees as the nation's vulnerability to a growing bioterrorism threat. He is Vice Chair of the bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of WMD proliferation and terrorism, which has concluded that, unless action is taken, a biological attack within the United States is increasingly like and will become a probability by 2013.[37] Together with former Senator Bob Graham, Chairman of the Commission, he has criticized the federal government's readiness to deal with major public health crisis'. On Jan. 4th 2010, the two Senators published an op-ed in the Washington Post, arguing that an unsatisfactory response to the 2009 flu pandemic shows the need for better medical emergency plans.[38].

2006 re-election campaign

Talent sought re-election in the 2006 Senate election. His Democratic opponent was state Auditor Claire McCaskill. Talent held a significant fundraising advantage[39], in part because of support from the Bush administration; on October 11, 2005, Vice President Dick Cheney held a fundraiser for Talent[40]. Talent accepted $5,000 from the lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Talent subsequently refunded all $5,000.[41]

Jim Talent received a number of endorsements for his re-election including from:

In 2006, the Washington DC newspaper Roll Call reported that DC lobbying interests had pledged to raise $1 million for Talent's re-election.[48] Talent stated that he does not give favors in exchange for donations, and that he “wouldn’t take five dollars from someone who expects something for it." [48]

McCaskill and Talent debated each other on Meet the Press on October 8, 2006. [49] McCaskill narrowly defeated Talent on November 7, 2006, with a 50% to 47% margin of victory.

Having lost his bid for re-election, Talent was considered a possible candidate for Governor of Missouri in 2008 after incumbent Matt Blunt decided to not seek re-election.[50]

In addition, Talent was considered a potential candidate to replace retiring Sen. Kit Bond in 2010. Talent has announced, however, that he will not seek Bond's seat, although it is possible that he will seek a rematch with McCaskill in 2012.[51]

Electoral history

  • 2006 election for U.S. Senate
  • 2000 election for Missouri Governor
  • 1998 election for U.S. House of Representatives
    • Jim Talent (R), 70.0%
    • John Ross (D), 28.3%
    • Brian Lundy (L), 1.6%
  • 1996 election for U.S. House of Representatives
  • 1994 election for U.S. House of Representatives
    • Jim Talent (R), 67.3%
    • Pat Kelley (D), 30.6%
    • Jim Higgens (L), 2.1%
  • 1992 election for U.S. House of Representatives
  • 1992 Race for U.S. House of Representatives (Republican Primary)

See also


  1. ^'Jim%20Talent%20PCA' Presbyterian News, PCA Talent sent to Senate
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ James Talent
  5. ^ TALENT, James Matthes/ Talent, James Matthes — Biographical Information
  6. ^ Jim Talent for U.S. Senate
  7. ^ Murphy, Kevin (2002-10-20). "Politics of the past echo in Senate race Republican wants to 'make a difference'". The Kansas City Star. Retrieved 2009-05-15.   "Talent is deeply religious, although that was not his upbringing. His father was Jewish, his mother Christian. The family did not attend religious services."
  8. ^
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Official Election Returns, State of Missouri General Election, November 5, 1996
  11. ^ Official Election Returns, State of Missouri General Election, November 7, 1996
  12. ^ US Lobby Registration & Reporting Disclosure Page
  13. ^ Democrats Question Talent's Pay for Work
  14. ^ Law Firm Calls Anti-Talent Accusations Absurd
  15. ^ Chronological list of U.S. Senators
  16. ^ Official Election Returns, State of Missouri General Election, November 5, 2002
  17. ^ Sun-News of the Northland - News - Top Stories
  18. ^
  19. ^ Project Vote Smart
  20. ^ RLC Endorsed Candidate & Initiative Lookup
  21. ^ Jim Talent for U.S. Senate
  22. ^ Marshall Democrat-News: Story: Talent: 'We're going to be in a new world - a renewable world'
  23. ^ - Bush Promotes Medicare Prescription Drug Plan in Missouri - Politics | Republican Party | Democratic Party | Political Spectrum
  24. ^ Missourinet: Talent Calls for Waiver of Penalty for Seniors Enrolling in Drug Benefit
  25. ^ Jim Talent on Health Care
  26. ^ Search Results - THOMAS (Library of Congress)
  27. ^ Kansas City Star
  28. ^ "Stem-Cell Dilemmas: Senator Talent believes there is an 'ethically untroubling' option on embryonic research. Will it cost him re-election?", Eleanor Clift, Newsweek, February 17, 2006]
  29. ^ "Stem cell battle emerging as key issue in Missouri Senate race", Sam Hananel, AP, January 25, 2006
  30. ^ a b 2006 Ballot Measures, Missouri, Secretary of State
  31. ^ Kristen Hinman (July 17, 2006). "A wedge issue that helps Democrats: Stem cell research is dividing Missouri's GOP".  
  32. ^ "Democrats see stem cell research as political tool", Sheryl Gay Stolberg, New York Times, April 25, 2006
  33. ^ Matt Franck (October 19, 2006). "Many jabs in debate but no KO". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  
  34. ^ Lauren Phillips (September 29, 2006). "Talent’s Bid for Second Term Just Like His First — a Tossup".  
  35. ^ Press release from the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, March 2, 2006
  36. ^ | Elections - U.S. Senate
  37. ^ [2]
  38. ^ [[3]]
  39. ^ [4]
  40. ^ Cheney talks at Talent fundraiser
  41. ^ Lawmakers return Abramoff donations - Politics -
  42. ^ [5]
  43. ^ [6]
  44. ^ Marshall Democrat-News: Story: Talent receives endorsement of Missouri Pork Association
  45. ^ [7]
  46. ^ [8]>
  47. ^ Jim Talent for U.S. Senate
  48. ^ a b [9]
  49. ^
  50. ^ STLtoday - Gov. Blunt says he won't run again
  51. ^

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Joan Kelly Horn
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's 2nd congressional district

January 3, 1993 – January 3, 2001
Succeeded by
Todd Akin
United States Senate
Preceded by
Jean Carnahan
United States Senator (Class 1) from Missouri
November 25, 2002 – January 4, 2007
Served alongside: Kit Bond
Succeeded by
Claire McCaskill
Political offices
Preceded by
Jan Meyers
Chairman of House Small Business Committee
Succeeded by
Donald Manzullo
Party political offices
Preceded by
Margaret B. Kelly
Republican Party nominee for Governor of Missouri
2000 (lost)
Succeeded by
Matt Blunt
Preceded by
John Ashcroft
Republican Party nominee, U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Missouri
2002 (won), 2006 (lost)
Succeeded by
(2012 nominee)

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