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Missouri political campaigns come to an abrupt halt

October 17, 2000
By: Kate Miller
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Campaigns across Missouri announced a temporary moratorium on all advertising, fund raising and public appearances just three weeks before the election out of respect for the late Gov. Mel Carnahan, his son Roger "Randy" Carnahan and former chief of staff Chris Sifford.

Black ribbons hung from the front porch banister at Democratic State Committee headquarters Tuesday where staffers fielded calls from the public, but ceased all campaigning activities.

"It's very similar to getting four blowouts at one time and just coming to a screeching halt," said Ron Casteel, a staff member at the Democrat's coordinated campaign. He did not know when they would resume.

There was one exception to the shutdown of events by the major political candidates.

After pledging to cease all campaign activities early Tuesday morning, Carnahan's GOP opponent in the U.S. Senate race. John Ashcroft arrived in Jefferson City to issue a statement to selected news organizations -- principally TV stations.

According to several reporters and KMOV-TV cameraman Jon Davis, Ashcroft read what appeared to be a memorized speech after fidgeting with camera angles and microphone placement. After making the statement, no questions were allowed.

Several other news organizations -- including the Columbia Missourian, Reuters, the Columbia Tribune and KMOX Radio -- were denied access to the event or to Ashcroft.

Carnahan's death does not remove Carnahan's name from the ballot. Staff members at the Democratic State Committee said they would eventually resume campaigning for the Democratic candidate in the race, but there is no designated appointee at this time.

"If names are surfacing, it's all rumor," Casteel said.

If Carnahan were to win the election, it would amount to a vacant seat that, under one state law cited by the secretary of state's office, would be filled by a gubernatorial appointment until the next general election in 2002.

Also Tuesday, the Libertarian presidential candidate Harry Browne and lieutenent govenor candidate Phil Horras held a sparsely attended joint press conference in the capital rotunda protesting Browne's exclusion from the event.

But most of the other campaigns for state offices suspended campaigning as of early Tuesday morning.

"We are suspending our campaign at least until at least Thursday. We've pulled all of our ads and our web site is down," said a tearful Kim Baldwin, spokesperson for Democratic candidate for governor Bob Holden.

Michelle Dimarob, a spokesperson for GOP candidate Jim Talent's campaign, said they would cease all campaigning activities at least for the day and the day of the funeral. When asked when the campaigning would resume, Dimarob said that they were monitoring the situation.

Sen. Joe Maxwell, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, said he was numb and shocked from the ordeal.

"My staff and I made decisions early before the sun came up this morning when it became absolutely apparent that we'd lost our governor and our friends Chris and Randy and we made a decision to suspend all campaign activities until further notice as we mourn our loss," he said.

Maxwell's GOP opponent Wendell Bailey has also suspended his campaign for at least several days. Campaign manager Mike Carroll said they wanted to give Missouri citizens time to grieve for the popular governor.

Democratic secretary of state candidate Steve Gaw has suspended all campaign activities including advertising for an indefinite period of time. His GOP opponent Matt Blunt decided to continue his advertising campaign while canceling all other campaign activities. Campaign adviser Andy Blunt said they were only running positive, issue-oriented ads.

Blunt later added, "I think that's the kind of message that Gov. Carnahan would have wanted us to be talking about."

Democratic candidate for state treasurer Nancy Farmer halted all campaigning and is awaiting word on funeral arrangements before deciding when to resume. Todd Graves' campaign pulled ads for 24 hours and canceled all public appearances today and tomorrow. They will resume on Thursday said campaign manager Jeff Roe.

Calls to Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon's reelection campaign were not returned. His Republican opponent Sam Jones pulled all of his ads scheduled to run Tuesday and said he would decide how to proceed on a day to day basis.

While most Missouri politicians shut down their campaigns, the presidential debate in St. Louis was held as scheduled.

Carnahan's wife, Jean, issued a statement Tuesday urging that the debates be held.

"Because my husband cherished our democracy and its expression, he would very much want the debate scheduled for tonight to go on," Jean Carnahan said in a prepared statement. "We are honored that it is being held in the state that Mel, Randy, and Chris loved so much."