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Debate Two

October 11, 2000
By: Clayton Bellamy
State Capital Bureau

Date: October 10, 2000

KANSAS CITY, Mo., - The campaign for Missouri governor turned slightly negative this week as the Democratic candidate picked up a tactic being used by Hillary Clinton -- to link the GOP candidate to former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The charges were raised in the second debate between the two candidates in Kansas City.

The match-up, broadcast live on local television and moderated by one of the station's reporters, featured Republican Jim Talent and Democrat Bob Holden sparring over education, prescription drug coverage, methamphetamine and roads.

But each candidate brought a new punch to throw at the other in a clash before about a hundred people at this city's Union Station.

Holden repeatedly linked Talent, a congressman from St. Louis County, with former GOP U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the controversy that has surrounded the Republican leadership in Congress.

For his part, Talent warned voters that Holden supports raising taxes.

"Talent tries to portray himself as a consensus-builder but his record in Washington doesn't reflect that," said Holden, the state treasurer. "He voted lock-step with Newt on shutting down the federal government and abolishing the federal Department of Education."

Talent has served as Assistant Majority Leader in the House since 1998, a position he hasn't boasted about on the campaign trail.

Last week, Talent brought taxes into the campaign for the first time with an ad saying Holden's record shows he'll raise taxes. Tuesday, Talent alluded to Holden's support for a $550 million sales tax increase to pay for highway construction.

Holden said he merely supported the increase as an option to deal with the state's highway funding shortage. He said he worked on the $2 billion bond measure that passed the Legislature this spring.

The issue that drew the most heated exchange in the first debate, prescription drug coverage, this time saw the two candidates agree that coverage should be done federally under Medicare.

But Holden, once again, said he is seeking a state benefit because Talent and the Republican Congress failed to pass a bill in Washington. Talent chided Holden and the Democrats in state government for seeking the benefit in an election year after eight years of inaction.

Talent then lashed out against the state's meth problem and what he said were soft sentencing laws against meth users.

Holden defended the state saying there were more than 1000 meth labs busted in Missouri last year.

Holden reiterated his charge that Talent's roads plan, which calls for $10 billion in bonds, is risky and threatens the state's AAA bond rating. Talent rebutted by saying that other states use bonds to fund highway construction.

On education, the pair rehashed the argument over whether the state's gambling revenue properly goes to education. Holden points to comments by the past two state auditors that say the money does go to education, while Talent argues the state has just used the gambling money to replace normal education funding.

Talent's challenge in the race for the governor's mansion is similar to that of Presidential candidate George W. Bush run for the White House: to convince voters they need change in the midst of economic boom.

As such, the more-polished debater Talent started off with a similar theme he offered in the last debate in Cape Girardeau: it's time to discard leaders that he said have failed to perform state government's most basic duties.

"There's only a few things we expect the government to do, but we expect government to do them well," Talent said. "But (the current leaders) can't build roads. We're second in the nation in meth production. And only three out of 10 kids can read."

Holden, whose party holds every elected statewide office, defended the current administration on all those charges, saying that voters can either choose to stay the course or choose "radical" change.

"I have focused my attention on issues that can keep our state moving forward," Holden, the state's treasurer, said.

Like Al Gore, the Democratic Nominee for President, Holden used the current prosperity as a reason for voters to keep for him.

"Do you want to leave Missouri moving forward or radically change course?" Holden said.