McCaskill beats GOP's Hanson

Wednesday, November 6, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Democratic State Auditor Claire McCaskill won re-election Tuesday over several challengers in an unusual campaign that featured little fund-raising and no widespread advertising.

McCaskill credited her victory to an aggressive approach in her first four years in office, pledging a new round of audits in the weeks and months to come.

But she conceded part of her success was due to her opponents. Republican Al Hanson was a convicted felon disavowed by state party leaders. Hanson said he spent about $350 of his own money on the race. Two third-party candidates also spent little money.

McCaskill had more than $480,000 on hand less than two weeks before the election and decided to hold on to most of the money.

"We took a risk and we decided not to spend any money on media advertising, which is kind of unheard of in a statewide race," McCaskill, 49, said in a telephone interview from St. Louis. "It was a little scary to fly blind like that, but we really believed that we had done a strong enough job in the auditor's office and a lot of voters had paid attention to that."

McCaskill had 58 percent of the vote compared to 39 percent for Hanson, based on results from 58 percent of the precincts statewide.

Narrow rural wins

Hanson narrowly won a handful of rural counties that had reported complete results. But McCaskill led in most places, including by sizable margins in heavily populated St. Louis city and county.

Hanson, 72, said he was pleased with his showing.

"Considering all the factors, I got a lot of votes," Hanson said in a telephone interview from his Concordia home. "I don't know that I would have expected to do any better."

Hanson had stunned state GOP leaders by overwhelmingly defeating their hand-picked candidate, Jay Kanzler, in the August primary elections.

Party officials quickly disavowed Hanson, largely because he was convicted of consumer fraud charges in Minnesota in 1978 and served nine months in prison.

Other candidates on the ballot included Libertarian Arnold Trembley, 51, of St. Louis, and Green Party nominee Fred Kennell, 44, of Maplewood. They received a combined total of 3 percent of the vote.

McCaskill, a lawyer, was first elected as auditor in 1998 after serving as a state lawmaker and Jackson County prosecutor. She has focused on performance audits of agencies and issues, ranging from the effectiveness of the state's child abuse hot line to the use of state credit cards and compliance with the state's open-records law.

Her 1998 victory marked the first time since 1974 that Missouri's auditor had not been a certified public accountant. This year, none of the candidates on the ballot were accountants.

Before McCaskill, the last non-accountant auditors were Republicans John Ashcroft and Kit Bond -- both attorneys who went on to become governors and U.S. senators.

McCaskill has made no secret of her intentions to run for governor some day, most likely in 2008.

Hanson had criticized McCaskill's desire for higher office, saying he would depoliticize the auditor's office because he has no allegiance to any political party.

He also said his criminal past could be an asset in office, claiming he was qualified to catch fraud because he had committed it.


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