JEFFERSON CITY - The Democrat's front-runner for governor in 2000 found himself under partisan attack Tuesday for announcing extension of a farm-loan program.
Tuesday's news conference was Holden's first in the statehouse in more than a year. It came less than one month after the Washington D.C.-based Cook Political Report called Holden's chances of getting elected a "toss up."
"It's a real slap in the face with a cold fish to be called a toss up when you're not running against anyone," said Daryl Duwe, chief spokesman for the Missouri Republican Party. "Today was an attempt to get attention."
But Holden's spokesman, Chuck Miller, said there was no political motivation for Tuesday's conference. "We've had this on the burner even before the Cook Report came out," he said.
Holden announced his office will assist farmers in 104 Missouri counties declared weather-related disaster areas in 1998.
"Agriculture is the bedrock of Missouri's economy," Holden said. "We want to do all we can to help farmers recover from weather-related disasters beyond their control."
The Treasurer's office will give farmers an another year for reduced-cost loans through the Missouri First Link Deposit Program for Agriculture. The program usually limits participation to five years.
Under the program, state government deposits are placed in financial institutions that agree to provide lower-interest loans to selected groups like farmers.
All counties in mid-Missouri are eligible for the extension, and farmers should contact their local lending institutions to participate in the program.
"Tough times are ahead," said Sam Leake, D-Center, House Agriculture Committee chairman. "This isn't a magic wand, but it is one of several measures we can use to help."