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Women and Independents could tip races

October 25, 2000
By: John Sheridan
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Political experts say Gov. Roger Wilson's announcement that he would appoint Jean Carnahan to the U.S. Senate could send more Missouri women and independent voters to the polls, tipping the tight presidential, senatorial and statewide races to the Democrats.

Ken Warren, political scientist at St. Louis Univeristy, said the possibility of a woman in the U.S. Senate could deliver Democrats the women's vote in Missouri because women support women at the polls. And in Missouri, women make up about 53 percent of the population.

Coupled with the fact that there are more women voters in Missouri, and that females are more likely to vote Democratic, Warren said women could be a major factor in all Missouri races.

Some political campaign strategists agree there will be a higher turnout because of Carnahan's death, but not neccesarily because a woman is running for Senate.

The Democratic lieutenant governor candidate, Joe Maxwell, said after Carnahan's death he was expecting Carnahan's death would negatively impact his campaign, but that with Wilson's annoucement that he would name Jean Carnahan, he noticed a surge in his campaign.

Corey Dillon, campaign manager for secretary of state candidate Steve Gaw, is also hopeful the annoucement will help her candidate.

"I think that the prospect of having the first woman senator from the state of Missouri would be very attractive to women and could very well increase turnout in the election," Dillon said.

Rick Hardy, a University of Missouri political scientist, agrees.

Hardy said more women usually turnout than men, and speculates this could give Jean Carnahan an edge over oppenent John Ashcroft, if she does decide to fill her late husband's seat.

But Jim Grebing, commications director for current secretary of state Bekki Cook, is not so sure.

"No one can predict the impact Gov. Carnahan's death will have at the polls," he said.

However, Grebing did say he still expects a large number of Democrats will vote for Carnahan, but he is less certain which way the independent vote will swing.

Warren agrees it is difficult to predict what the nearly 35 percent of Missouri independent voters will decide, but that clearly Carnahan is getting most of the attention.

"It's almost like a convention where all you hear is Carnahan, Carnahan, Carnahan, with Ashcroft only mentioned as a sidebar," Warren said.

Later this week state election officials will report anticipated voter turnout.

The prediction is based on estimates from local election officials.

Grebing said these reports should give a better idea of how Carnahan's death will effect voter turnout.

But with election day only two weeks away it is still not certain that Jean Carnahan would accept an appointment. Therefore, the impact of Carnahan's death on the polls is anything but predictable.

"This is unchartered territory," said Kevin Edwards, campaign director for Republican attorney general candidate Sam Jones, "I would hope this would increase voter turnout. The best way to honor Carnahan would be to vote."