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Impact of Negative Advertising Unclear in 1996 General Election

November 14, 1996
By: Tracy Sadeghian
State Capital Bureau

The 1996 State elections will be remembered for their heated and nasty advertisements. Both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of waging mudslinging campaigns.

The Republicans were handed what appeared to be a politician's dream. Just five days before the general election, former House Speaker Bob Griffin was indicted on charges of influence peddling.

Despite that indictment, and republican efforts to capitalize on allegations of misconduct, the G-O-P failed to make any significant changes in statewide offices.

Democtrats swept all five contested statewide office. Leaving Margaret Kelley as the lone Republican holding a statewide cabinet position.

While the G-O-P did capture eight seats in the State Legislature, the Democratics continue to be the majority party in both houses.

Tracy Sadeghian has the story from the State Capitol...

OutCue: SOC

The mud flew fastest and hardest in the race for Secretary of State.

Just one day after former House Speaker Bob Griffin was indicted, Republican challenger, John Hancock, ran a rash of ads linking his democrat opponent Bekki Cook to Bob Griffin.

Hancock accused Cook of helping Griffin get reelected to his position by illegally keeping the House floor open until the vote went his way.

Despite those ads, Cook beat Hancock by three-percent to remain Secretary of State.

Ironically, despite being involved in one of the dirtiest campaigns, defeated Secretary of State candidate John Hancock says the system needs changing...

Actuality: Hancock
OutCue: " or volunteering."
Contents: The real tragedy is that eventually people are going to lose confidence in their system of government and that's really what I see as the biggest danger that lies down the road that fewer and fewer people are participating in politics today either voting or volunteering.

Hancock says politicians should be held accountable for their tactics. He wants political candidates -- and not actors -- to deliver the attacks in future ads.

Hancock suggests that would help stem the mudslinging.

The negative overtones from the Secretary of State's race have sparked statewide debate over the use of dirty ads.

Daryl Duwe is Communications Director of the State Republican Party.

He says he supports negative advertising...when it's done to tell the truth.

Duwe thinks the anti-Griffin ads run by the Hancock campaign would have been more effective if voters had more time to think about the implications of the case...

Actuality: Duwe
OutCue: "...a lot of impact."
Contents: "Unfortunately the indictments came down so close to the election that there wasn't much time to really get that message home to voters in a way that it had a lot of impact."

Duwe says he feels negative ads are a vital and effective way to inform the electorate of wrongdoing...because the press isn't getting the job done.

State Democratic Party Chairman Joe Carmichael disagrees.

He says the mudslinging had little to do with the way Missourians cast their votes...

OutCue: "...for office."
Contents: As the advertising intensified, that is those for the candidate or against the candidate, did not move. And we increased our advertising efforts, the republicans increased theirs and everything stayed the same.

Carmichael says ads should focus on a candidate's record and position on the issues.

It appears negative ads, at least in Missouri, really didn't effect the way people voted.

It remains to be seen whether the candidate bashing left the electorate more cynical and disenchanted.

Those effects may not be seen until the year two-thousand.

Daryl Duwe remains hopeful about the future of Missouri Republicans...

OutCue: "..back and forth.".
FILL"We had a situation where we had a number of Republicans in '92 decided to run for the same office, essentially governor, and it was a roll of the dice and things went bad in '92 and we lost all of that "farm team", if you will, and these things happen. The Democrats are headed for much the same thing. They've got the statewide offices now. A lot of these people are going to knock heads in the year 2,000, so these things go back and forth.

These predictions may rely on how the Republicans decide to run future campaigns, if they want to regain a stronghold in the Show-me state.

For K-B-I-A's Capital Edition, I'm Tracy Sadeghian.