Elections tend to follow the money

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

It's much too early to write off Gov. Bob Holden's chances for re-election, but there are growing signs that neither public sentiment nor essential financial backing favor his chances.

The first three years of Holden's term have been marked with controversy -- from his lavish inauguration that left the governor obligated to union sponsors, to his executive order allowing collective bargaining for many state employees, to his bitter battles with legislators that resulted in more veto overrides than any other governor in state history.

While Holden cannot be held personally responsible for a sour economy that has produced a billion-dollar budget gap and the loss of thousands of jobs across the state, his leadership in both areas -- budgets and employment -- has been lackluster at best. As a result, he faces a serious challenge from State Auditor Claire McCaskill, who seeks to bump Holden in next year's Democratic primary.

Now Anheuser-Busch, one of the state's largest employers, has indicated it will give its money to the McCaskill campaign, not Holden's, which got the St. Louis beer maker's nod in his first campaign for governor.

This is a significant indicator of how next year's Democratic race for governor will shape up. Holden, as the incumbent, will hold on to support from unions that have benefited enormously from his single-handed efforts to aid their grip on state workers. But Anheuser-Busch's decision suggests that another key indicator of success in Democratic primaries -- the ability to raise the most funds -- is less clearcut.

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