Candidates juggle personal and political lives

Thursday, October 21, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:45 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

Though U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Columbia, was in New York to watch President Bush’s speech at the Republican National Convention, the event kindled fond memories of his hometown.

“It was a great feeling,” he said. “All the protesters were out there, and everyone inside was on the same side. It’s like when you go to Faurot Field and you know that yes, you are in a hometown, partisan crowd. You know you’re a Mizzou Tiger.”

Hulshof’s Democratic opponent, Linda Jacobsen, resides in St. Charles, but feels at home in Columbia, too.

“I love when people roll down their windows and say ‘Hi, Linda!’” she said. “It makes me feel like yes, this is my home, too. This town is so rich — there are just so many different kinds of people.”

Also on the ballot for the congressional seat are Libertarian Tamara Millay and Constitution Party candidate Chris Earl.

Campaigning: Hulshof and Jacobsen

With the election 12 days away, the major-party candidates have found it harder to spend time at home as they hit the campaign trail in a final push to persuade voters.

Jacobsen, a “gypsy by nature,” has logged more than 140,000 miles on the road since she began campaigning in February and is now on the road seven days a week. Her day usually begins at 8 a.m.

“Those are the days when I get to sleep in,” said Jacobsen, 46, the mother of three college-age children.

Jacobsen spends about two hours each morning working in her St. Charles home office of Global Vision Strategies, LLC. Then she hits the road to visit towns throughout the 25-county 9th District to get her message out.

Though it’s hard to be away from home so much, Jacobsen said her family is used to it; she’s often away on international work for her small business.

“I feel that home is where love is, and I get so much love from people in these counties,” she said.

Jacobsen usually returns to St. Charles after midnight and begins her nightly ritual of answering e-mails and planning for the next day on the trail. After her agenda is laid out, Jacobsen goes to bed between 1 and 2 a.m. to catch about six hours of sleep before starting all over again.

Though her schedule is at times “inhuman,” Jacobsen said all the travel is exciting.

“As I travel around, I can’t wait to turn the corner because I love these beautiful landscapes,” said Jacobsen, who enjoys photography. “I have seen more beautiful sunsets in Missouri than I have anywhere else.”

Jacobsen said her main motivators, however, are the constituents of the 9th District.

“I am truly humbled by the generosity of the people. They give me their home numbers and addresses,” she said, pointing to numbers scrawled in her binder, often accompanied by offers of dinner and a bed for the night.

“It’s proof that these people want their country back,” she said. “This campaign is people-centered and issue-based. I don’t have a lot of money, but I have a lot of heart. I don’t pretend to be a great fund-raiser, but I can be a great congresswoman.”

Though never elected to an office other than the St. Charles Community Extension Committee, Jacobsen said she has been civically active and socially conscious all her life.

“As a little girl in New Jersey, I saw my neighbors with tattoos on their arms from the death camps in Germany, and I knew from then on how precious freedom and liberty are,” Jacobsen said. “I grew up in a free-thinking community where learning and debate were encouraged. Many women were active, informed and involved in volunteering.”

Hulshof was similarly inspired by people from his community, and it was actually a Democrat who sparked his political interest.

“When I was 18, I had already been a state officer in FFA, and I heard of a congressman from Missouri named Jerry Litton,” Hulshof said. “He was a Democrat, and he was a farm kid who had gone to Washington and embraced his agricultural background. He was also a former FFA officer and an awesome public speaker. He piqued my interest in politics.”

Hulshof voted for Litton in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. Litton, however, died in a plane crash that night on the way to his victory party.

After four terms representing the 9th District, Hulshof described his life as the American dream.

“As a kid I was walking barefoot through the cotton fields of my parent’s farm, and now I am walking the marble halls of the Capitol,” he said.

Yet, the fulfillment of this dream is not without costs. Hulshof said his family, daughters Hanna, 1, and Casey, 5; and wife, Renee, live at the “whim of the congressional schedule.”

Hulshof is in Washington, D.C., every Tuesday through Friday, and special votes and meetings often keep him there on other days. He spends weekends either at home in Columbia or at the southeast Missouri farm he inherited when his parents died. During this election season, Hulshof has also had to squeeze in time for President Bush’s race as well as his own; he is the official Missouri spokesman for the Bush/Cheney campaign.

All that activity has affected his young family, but Hulshof says that together, they are making it work.

“I can’t imagine doing this without Renee’s support,” Hulshof said of his wife, who decided in July to become a stay-at-home mom. “And Casey understands what I have to do. It isn’t at the point where she is grabbing my leg begging me to stay. But I have to say that that’s the hardest thing: being away from my family.”

Hulshof says the family has adapted by forming a routine. Each night, after the girls have had their baths, they call on a speaker phone to say goodnight. They also come to the airport to pick him up at the end of the week.

“When I come in from the airport or hit the door, there are these two little girls bouncing all over the place,” Hulshof said.

To make sure there is family time, almost every minute of Hulshof’s week is planned. On Mondays, he gets together with aides in Columbia on a conference call to Washington and plans his week. His Washington schedule dictates his Missouri campaigning schedule, which is usually limited to weekend events.

“You have to be very agile and flexible,” Hulshof said. “When I was a brand new face in Washington … I couldn’t say no to anything. … I’ve got a few elections under my belt and have learned what are ‘must-attend’ events.” Among these are church picnics, rural electric co-op meetings and parades, he said, because they provide a real chance to interact with constituents.

Hulshof also meticulously plans his routes to pack in as much campaigning as possible.

“Let’s say that we were invited to an event,” he said. “We’ll look at the travel time and the route and see if we can meet with any constituents along the way. We have to make the most of our time, and we try to make it a full working afternoon.”

Through all his scheduling challenges, Hulshof has two steadfast rules.

“For any Sunday request, any political or official event, my wife gets veto power,” he said. “We have a Sunday routine, you know, with church and all. Renee has to sign off on it, and then I can go. The second rule is that one night a month, we have a date night.”

For Hulshof, the hassles of managing a home, a farm, two campaigns and two offices are far outweighed by the rewards of providing service to his fellow Missourians.

“The rewards come from seeing and meeting the people that you help,” Hulshof said after recounting a story about returning war medals to a World War II veteran decades after she served in the Pacific. “Public service really is providing service to others. I want to provide some useful benefit or service to people, and that is what inspires me to climb into this political arena.”

Campaigning: Millay and Earl

Libertarian candidate Tamara Millay, 37, is no stranger to the political arena. She ran for U.S. Representative in 1996 and 2000, and for U.S. Senate in 1998 and 2002.

“I am very comfortable running for federal office,” said Millay, who decided to run for the 9th District seat after she was not chosen as the Libertarian candidate for vice president. “In a way, I think it’s the simplest, because you just look to the Constitution as your guide.”

Millay, the mother of two young boys, admits she has had little time to spend on this campaign because of her involvement with a Libertarian event in protest of the Oct. 8 presidential debate at Washington University.

“There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into it,” Millay said of the event, which included a rally, a march, several teach-ins, lecturers and music.

It was important for Millay to participate because it was the same event in 1992 that motivated her to get involved with the Libertarian Party.

“It’s also important because the restrictions on the debate are too much,” she said. “If you are on the ballot in enough states to possibly win, you should be allowed to debate. There are also issues left out of the debate, like the drug war.”

Millay looks forward to participating in a debate at 6:30 tonight at Columbia College and plans to campaign in Hermann this weekend.

“Although I have not had a lot of time to devote to this campaign, I think that I have a better chance of coming up with a greater percentage of the vote this time,” she said. “From what I have seen, it’s not likely to be close, so it will encourage more people to vote for a third party.”

Chris Earl of Old Monroe is the Constitution Party’s candidate. He has four children, and his main priorities are advocating policies against abortion rights and abolishing the state and federal Departments of Education and the Internal Revenue Service.

Earl could only be reached by e-mail. He initially forwarded a candidate statement that reflected positions on his key issues. When asked about positions concerning the war and health care, he forwarded Constitution Party plank excerpts. He later elaborated on his views, which stem from the party’s platform of following biblical laws and the U.S. Constitution.

“I will always vote based on the principles and moral code given to us by God,” he said.

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