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Republican Sam Jones expends much shoe leather in the attorney general race

October 30, 2000
By: Katy Scott
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Except for red, white and blue campaign signs in the windows, the house in the suburbs of Springfield, Mo., that acts as Sam Jones' campaign headquarters is usually empty.

The 55-year-old Republican candidate for attorney general, along with his staff of two, have spent most of the past year and a half zig-zagging across Missouri to win votes.

"I'm wearing out my second car. I've put 26,000 miles on it since the 15 of April," Jones said. "When you don't have money, you have shoe leather, and we've expended a lot of shoe leather."

And his absence from his Mount Vernon home hasn't gone unnoticed by his wife and three daughters, who are 24, 22 and 6.

"I go in and wake Sarah, the 6-year-old, about 10 to seven every morning to get her ready for school. And this, this tears you up, Wednesday morning, I went in there to get her up and she said, 'Daddy, when can we just hang out together?' and I said, 'Nov. 8.'"

But Jones isn't spending so much time traveling across the state simply to win the election. His main goal is to beat the current attorney general, Democrat Jay Nixon.

"The level of dissatisfaction with Jay Nixon in the Democratic Party is only slightly lower than it is in the Republican Party," Jones said. "If someone didn't step up to the plate, Jay Nixon was going to take a pass at this."

Kevin Edwards, Jones' campaign manager, also said one of the reasons he became involved in the campaign was because he felt Jones could beat Nixon.

"There needs to be a change," he said.

Regarding Nixon's performance in office, Jones' campaign has focused on the attorneys' fees in the tobacco case. Missouri became involved in the multi-state suit against tobacco companies in the later stages of the case. Jones said the attorneys hired by Nixon's office to represent the state did very little in the case and secured no more money for Missouri than states without any legal representation received.

Jones claims Nixon hired the tobacco attorneys, who could make several million dollars from the case, because they donated more than half a million dollars to Democratic candidates and causes. Although the attorney fee issue is now in arbitration, Jones said Nixon's office controls the process.

"The tobacco attorneys and the authority appointing them, Jay Nixon, dominate the arbitration board two-to-one," he said. "You have two foxes and one chicken guarding the chicken house."

Like many Republicans running for statewide office, Jones also has spotlighted the meth issue in his campaign. Jones, who grew up in southwestern Missouri, has served as a prosecuting attorney and associate judge in Lawrence County. These titles, he said, give him a leg up on other attorney general candidates when it comes to fighting drugs.

If elected, Jones said he plans to create a multi-county grand jury to hear cases that cross county lines. The court would hear cases pursued by the multi-county drug task forces that currently exist throughout the state.

Jones said such a plan would free up prosecuting attorneys' time by consolidating cases. He also said it would allow informants and undercover agents to be on the street longer and would speed up the trial process.

"I first floated this idea Nov. 23 of last year," Jones said. "Jay Nixon's response was it was worthy of consideration. Now, when you start saying your opponent's idea is worthy of consideration, that's pretty high praise, and I'll take the endorsement."

On the subject of another highly talked about crime issue, Jones said he supports the death penalty, but he said it is necessary to make certain every person on Missouri's death row is guilty. The only way to do that, he said, is with top-of-the-line DNA testing.

"Missouri should lead the way in establishing a database of DNA identification, which will be a model for other states," he said.

Jones said to pay for the testing, court costs in felony cases should be taxed to establish a "DNA Testing Fund." Testing would be available at all stages of trial, from pre-trial to post-trial, according to the plan.

And although he said he believes he can win the election, Jones said he knew from the beginning this would be a hard race since he's up against a very qualified incumbent. Nixon was first elected to the attorney general's office in 1992, and he was re-elected in 1996.

Nixon also has been involved in Missouri politics for almost 15 years. Before he was elected attorney general, the father of two served as a state senator for 6 years. He also worked in a private practice from the time he graduated from MU's law school until he became a senator.

Nixon's campaign headquarters did not return repeated phone calls over the course of several weeks. His campaign has been relatively low key, with Nixon making only a few campaign appearances.