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Columbia Missourian

Ballot decision allowed Nixon to raise more money

By David A. Lieb/The Associated Press
October 14, 2008 | 4:44 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — First he was a candidate. Then he was disqualified. Then a day after the deadline to certify candidates, little-known gubernatorial aspirant Daniel Carroll was placed back on the primary ballot by the secretary of state.

Carroll was defeated soundly by Attorney General Jay Nixon in the Democratic governor's primary. But Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan's decision to put him on the ballot allowed Nixon to accept roughly $600,000 more than he otherwise could have under Missouri's campaign contribution limits in place at the time.

That's because Carroll was Nixon's only opponent in the August primary. And candidates with primary opponents could accept twice as much money from political party committees as those who were unopposed.

That extra money contributed to Nixon's sizable cash advantage in the governor's race, which allowed him to start running TV ads before the primary election without worrying about depleting his money for the Nov. 4 general election.

Carnahan said Carroll's on-off-on candidacy status was because he was slow in submitting documents needed to prove his candidacy qualifications. Carroll was treated the same as anyone else whose qualifications were in question, Carnahan said.

At no time did Nixon, his campaign staff or any of Nixon's supporters contact Carnahan or anyone in her office to discuss putting Carroll on the ballot, Carnahan said. Nixon spokesman Oren Shur also said "there were no conversations between the campaign and the secretary of state's office regarding that matter."

Carnahan spokeswoman Laura Egerdal said she doesn't believe anyone in the elections division was even aware of the financial implications of the decision.

"There was no politics in this," Carnahan said.

But the Missouri Republican Party, which submitted a wide-ranging Sunshine Law request to Carnahan's office for documents related to Carroll's candidacy, said it is "beyond belief" that Carnahan staffers didn't know the political ramifications of their choice to place Carroll on the ballot.

"This wasn't a small amount of money we're talking about," said Missouri Republican Party executive director Jared Craighead. "These are significant political contributions that Robin Carnahan gamed the system for Jay Nixon to be able to take."

Carnahan called the Republican accusations a "little bit of a hail Mary" late in the election season. Hulshof, who won a contested Republican primary, has trailed Nixon both in fundraising and public opinion polls.

But Hulshof's campaign stands by its statement.

"It's apparent that they had to bend the rules to help Jay Nixon," Hulshof spokesman Scott Baker said.

Carroll, 52, works at a copper tubing factory in Shelbina and had never run for office before. He filed as a gubernatorial candidate on March 25, the last day possible.

The state constitution requires the Missouri governor to be at least 30 years old, a U.S. citizen for at least 15 years and a Missouri resident for at least 10 years before the election.

The secretary of state's office uses voter registration rolls to verify those criteria and sends letters to candidates whose qualifications it cannot confirm. Carnahan's office sent Carroll a letter April 30 asking for documentation about his eligibility by May 12.

On May 13, Carnahan's office sent Carroll another letter noting it had not received the documentation and asking him to fax it. On May 22, Carnahan's staff sent Carroll a third letter stating he had been disqualified because he had failed to show proof of citizenship and Missouri residency.

The next day, Carnahan sent local election authorities the official list of candidates for the Aug. 5 primary. Carroll was not included.

But because state law gives the secretary of state until May 27 to certify the slate of candidates, Carnahan's staff continued to try to collect information from Carroll and at least one other person, Democratic state House candidate Joshua Reed, of Gladstone.

Reed submitted an affidavit May 27 from his sister attesting to his residency, and Carnahan sent election authorities a notice that same day adding him to the ballot.

Carroll said in an interview that Carnahan's staff called him several times on May 27 seeking information — several days after Carnahan had disqualified him. Carroll had to leave work to get the paperwork from home, then returned to work, where he faxed it during his night shift.

At 10:44 p.m. May 27, the secretary of state's office received a faxed copy of Carroll's birth certificate and an expired driver's license. No one was in the office at that time.

On May 28, Executive Deputy Secretary of State Rich Lamb initially recommended that Carroll not be added to the ballot. But a few hours later, after Lamb consulted with staff attorneys and the elections division, Carnahan determined Carroll was qualified and sent local election authorities a notice to add his name.

Lamb said Tuesday that there was no precedent for what to do when a candidate's information arrived after business hours on the last day to certify candidates. Ultimately, the office decided it was "consistent and fair" to put Carroll on the ballot, since his documents were received before midnight, Lamb said.

State law includes no specific allowance for the secretary of state to add a candidate after the May 27th certification deadline.

Concerned about the timing, Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren got a court order from a judge before placing Carroll on the ballot. Other clerks apparently did not take such steps.

Carnahan's office relied on a 1999 voter registration that had since gone inactive and a Missouri driver's license with a 2003 expiration date to determine Carroll had been a Missouri resident for a long enough time.

Carroll's license had been revoked for driving while intoxicated. Iowa court records from the 2001 DWI charge list Carroll's address as Clinton, Iowa.

If he was a resident of Iowa, that could have disqualified Carroll from running for governor. But Carroll said the Iowa address was only a temporary residence while he was working on a pipefitting job there and that he continued to also maintain a Missouri address.

Lamb said the secretary of state's office never saw any documents from the Iowa court case.

Carroll said he got into the governor's race after listening to a bunch of complaining. Despite the hassle with his candidacy, Carroll said it was worth the effort. He got 15 percent of the vote without mounting any semblance of a traditional campaign. That was enough to convince him to run for governor again in four years.