GOP claiming 'dirty politics' in area representative races

Thursday, September 19, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The state Republican Party is alleging that "push polls" aimed at raising negative views of GOP candidates are being conducted in two Southeast Missouri House districts.

Party spokesman Scott Baker said a Buffalo, N.Y., polling company is blanketing the 153rd and 163rd districts with calls posing slanted questions to voters.

Baker said calls to the 163rd District included insinuations that Republican hopeful Otto Bean Jr. of Holcomb, Mo., doesn't pay taxes on family business, actually resides in Memphis, Tenn., opposes government prescription drug subsidies for the elderly and supports public funding for private schools.

In the 153rd District, Baker said the calls attempted to imply that candidate Mike Dethrow of Alton, Mo., has previously been bankrupt, supports more funding for urban schools at the expense of rural districts and favors public subsidies for a new St. Louis Cardinals ballpark.

The allegations are false in all instances, Baker said.

"This is the worst form of dirty politics," Baker said. "This is pretty universally rejected by reputable political operatives."

A representative of ITC, the company Baker said is conducting the polls, did not return phone messages requesting comment.

Missouri Democratic Party executive director Mike Kelley said the party wasn't behind the calls.

"It is a bunch of hogwash," Kelley said. "We are not doing any push polling."

Brent Robinson of Kennett, Mo., the Democratic candidate in the 163rd District, said he had no knowledge of the polls. That district covers parts of Dunklin, Butler and Stoddard counties.

"No one connected to my campaign has done anything of that sort," Robinson said.

Bean was unavailable for comment, but his son and campaign adviser Barry Bean said his father had "covered the range of disappointment to amusement" over the calls.

"It's a little hard to take too seriously," Barry Bean said.

Neither Dethrow nor Democrat Larry Jackson of Doniphan, Mo., could be reached for comment on the calls in the 153rd District, which includes all or parts of Butler, Carter, Oregon, Ripley and Wayne counties.

Republicans view the two seats as their best opportunities for House gains in Southeast Missouri. Both are currently held by Democrats not seeking re-election.

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