Assessing the vote

Friday, August 6, 2004

Some political thoughts and possibilities:

When Gov. Bob Holden put the marriage amendment on the August ballot (he had a choice between August or November) he probably wanted to help John Kerry. He either should have known or did know it would probably hurt his chances for re-election.

Nine other states will vote on basically the same amendment in November. The amendment was adopted by 71 percent of the voters in Missouri's primary election Tuesday. It states that a legally recognized marriage would have to be between a man and woman. Over a million Missourians voted yes to support the amendment.

The gambling amendment to approve a casino in Rockaway Beach, Mo., was defeated by 56 percent of Tuesday's voters.

These two moral issues, as well as the primary races for statewide offices, swelled the primary vote percentage and probably helped women on the ballot more than men. Nearly 1.5 million Missourians voted on each of the amendment issues -- 135,300 more votes than were cast in the Republican and Democrat gubernatorial primaries combined.

However, there were 97,346 more votes cast in the governor races than in the U.S. Senate races also on the ballot. This indicates that almost 100,000 more people voted only on the amendments and in the governor contests -- a race in which Claire McCaskill defeated Holden by 53,993 votes -- than on the other primary races.

Matt Blunt, Republican candidate for governor, is probably right in saying that there is little difference between the policies and issues of Holden and his successful primary challenger. But McCaskill obviously sold her strong leadership style and her contention that she would be a better candidate against Blunt and more likely to help Kerry in Missouri.

It was quite noticeable that all of the major newspapers in the state that made endorsements backed McCaskill. This was in spite of Holder's incumbency and his backing by U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt, former U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan, St. Louis political guru Joyce Aboussie, Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell and most of the labor unions, trial lawyers and black leaders.

Holden's campaign manager, Roy Temple -- an old pro in Missouri's Democratic politics and originally from Puxico, Mo. -- has now been on the losing side in his last two major campaigns: Jean Carnahan's loss to current U.S. Sen. Jim Talent and Holden's loss this week (after helping to get Holden elected in a close race four years ago).

Regardless of what some say, politics is not fun. I respect all candidates who seek public office.

Some of the state races had strong negative primary campaigns, most specifically the Democratic primary for governor, the 3rd Congressional District primary (Gephardt's old St. Louis district) and the Republican primary for state treasurer.

It's to be noted that it's hard to run a negative campaign against a woman, and the Missouri Democratic ticket will include Nancy Farmer for U.S. Senate; Claire McCaskill for governor, Bekki Cook of Cape Girardeau for lieutenant governor and Robin Carnahan (daughter of the Jean Carnahan and the late governor) for secretary of state. To my knowledge, that's the biggest slate of women in the history of Missouri.

To my delight and as far as I know, none of the Cape Girardeau County primary races were conducted in a negative fashion.

Nathan Cooper's victory over two other well-qualified candidates for state representative, Pete Frazier and Phil Brinson, will give us a strong and knowledgeable voice for Cape Girardeau in Jefferson City.

Cooper has the demeanor and speaking style of a younger, less experienced Jim Talent and will hit the ground running in the term-limited and less experienced House of Representatives. It won't hurt that if the expected new speaker of the House, State Rep. Rod Jetton from Marble Hill achieves that leadership position, Cooper will get plugged into leadership discussions immediately.

My congratulations to the other primary winners in this area. The general election is just 90 days away.

All I ask for is an informed public that exercises its right to vote.

There will be a lot of close races in Missouri with the unique situation that two Cape Girardeans, state Sen. Peter Kinder and former secretary of state Bekki Cook, are running for the high position and honor of lieutenant governor.

I especially think it important to separate the wheat from the chaff in the race for president between George Bush and John Kerry.

We're in an international war with terrorists against the United States, and it's not just another election. I'll have much more on this in the future.

Gary Rust is chairman of Rust Communications.

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