Carnahan, Talent roll to U.S. Senate primary victories

Wednesday, August 7, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- After four decades as a sidelines student of Missouri politics, Senator-by-appointment Jean Carnahan defeated a jailed Democratic primary opponent Tuesday to win her first election. Republican Jim Talent formalized their nationally watched November showdown by sweeping aside four unknown primary challengers.

"Let us agree here and now that our win in November will not be narrow or meager, but it will be bold and decisive," Mrs. Carnahan told cheering supporters at a suburban hotel.

Talent, a former four-term congressman from St. Louis County, got applause and whistles at an American Legion post when he urged backers to "badger" Missourians for votes in the mid-term election: "I need you to be badgerers for Talent."

In the primary battle for the U.S. Congress 8th district, Republican incumbent Jo Ann Emerson won handily. With 94 percent of precincts reporting, Emerson had 45,342 votes, or 88 percent, to challenger Richard Allen Kline's 6.357, or 12 percent.

The contest between Talent and Carnahan is already nationally watched because it figures in control of the Senate, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 50-49, with a lone independent.

Mrs. Carnahan had 82 percent of the Democratic ballots with 54 percent of the vote reported. Almost one in five primary votes went to her challenger, Darrel D. Day, jailed since mid-June for a probation violation but lingering on the ballot despite a nonexistent campaign.

Talent accumulated 89 percent of the Republican vote with 54 percent of precincts reporting. He defeated Joseph May, a Jefferson City dentist; Scott Craig Babbitt of St. Joseph; Doris Bass Landfather of St. Louis; and Libertarian-turned-Republican Martin Lindstedt of Granby.

The race has also gotten national attention because of the tragic path Mrs. Carnahan, 68, took to the Senate.

Her late husband, two-term Gov. Mel Carnahan, died in a plane crash three weeks before Election Day 2000, after a bitter race challenging Republican Sen. John Ashcroft. Carnahan went on to posthumously oust Ashcroft, the only deceased person to win a Senate seat.

Mrs. Carnahan, who had been her husband's closest adviser through 19 campaigns but had never appeared on a ballot herself before Tuesday, accepted the governor's appointment to the seat formerly held by Harry Truman.

"I took a giant leap of faith" by accepting the appointment, Mrs. Carnahan said in her election night speech. "You trusted me to do what was right for our state and nation, and I trusted God for the strength to do the job. And I get up every morning thankful for that strength and determined to earn your trust," she said.

Talent, 45, served eight years in Congress before narrowly losing a 2000 governor's race. He renewed his focus on the fall and his challenge for Mrs. Carnahan to meet him in debates.

In an interview, Talent pledged to keep the campaign clean: "It's a question of experience and issues for the voters to decide."

Mrs. Carnahan said in an interview that she was proud of her record and ready to defend it.

"I'm sure Mel would be very pleased that we're carrying on. You don't give up on the things you believe in," she told the AP.

Libertarians were choosing a Senate nominee between Tamara Millay of St. Louis, who was the party's unsuccessful 1998 Senate candidate, and Edward Joseph Manley of Hillsboro, who admitted doing prison time for assault two decades ago.

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