Talent doesn't fear sympathy vote

Saturday, May 4, 2002

LAKE OZARK, Mo. -- Missourians still feel sorry about U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan's loss of her husband and son in a campaign plane crash 18 months ago, but sympathy votes won't elect her, Republican Jim Talent said Friday.

"Is there a sympathy vote? I think clearly there's sympathy, and there ought to be. I'd think less of Missourians than I do if I thought they didn't still sympathize," said Talent, the Democratic senator's best-known GOP challenger.

"But no, I don't think there is a sympathy vote, because I think people know this election is about the future and not about the past," Talent, a former congressman from St. Louis County, told a joint meeting of the Associated Press Managing Editors and the Missouri Society of Newspaper Editors.

Carnahan has said she is running on her own record in her first public office.

She was appointed senator in January 2001, filling the seat her late husband, Gov. Mel Carnahan, won posthumously. Mel Carnahan died in an Oct. 16, 2000, crash that also killed the Carnahans' eldest son, Roger, and campaign aide Chris Sifford.

Three weeks later, Missouri voters elected Mel Carnahan over Republican Sen. John Ashcroft, who went on to become U.S. attorney general. The November election is to determine who will serve the rest of the six-year Senate term.

Invitation declined

Carnahan was invited to make a joint appearance with Talent but she declined, saying she had prior plans to attend an issues meeting in New York City with her Democratic colleagues. Talent said he was looking forward to debating Carnahan, who said she wants to wait to debate until after voters select party nominees.

"I'm really not trying to run against anybody. I think I've got a lot to offer the people of Missouri. I think I could be a good senator for them, if they want me to do it, for a long time," said Talent, who narrowly lost a 2000 race for governor to Democrat Bob Holden.

Also Friday, leaders of the state Democratic and Republican parties disagreed about which will control the legislature when the dust settles from November's elections. Democrats control the House while Republicans are the Senate majority.

The arrival of legislative term limits means 83 of the 163 House seats are open, while 13 of 17 Senate seats on the ballot have no incumbent, said state Rep. May Scheve, the new Democratic chairman, and John Hancock, executive director of the Missouri GOP.

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