Experience a major factor in four-candidate race

Tuesday, October 26, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:23 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Experience in elective office has become one of the issues of contention in the race to become Missouri’s secretary of state.

The race features Catherine Hanaway, the Republican speaker of the Missouri House, and Robin Carnahan, a Democrat, a first-time politician and the daughter of the late Gov. Mel Carnahan and former U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan.

While Robin Carnahan has never held elected office, Hanaway said the Democrat’s family name makes her a formidable foe.

“I do see this race as sort of David and Goliath,” Hanaway said. “Nobody in my family has held office in Missouri before, but there is nothing unfair about it at all.”

Carnahan said her name isn’t her only qualification for the job.

“The people who say that I am not qualified seem to think that the only qualification to be secretary of state is to have been a political candidate their whole lives and a legislator,” she said. “I’m not a career politician. I’m someone who brings a business perspective to this office, and that is the important thing.”

The secretary of state is in charge of protecting investors, preventing corporate fraud and acting as the state’s top election official, guarding against voter fraud and irregularities on voter registration lists.

Other would-be first-time politicians on the ballot for the job this year are Libertarian Christopher Davis and Constitution Party candidate Donna Ivanovich.

It will be Davis’ first and Ivanovich’s second attempt running for the position. Ivanovich was unsuccessful in 2000.

Because the two major-party candidates agree on most of the issues facing the next secretary of state, each has been busy promoting her experience while attacking the other’s throughout the campaign season.

Hanaway is quick to point out her six years as a state legislator, five years working for U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, service on the federal Election Assistance Commission Board of Advisers and management of 300 employees as speaker of the House for the past two years.

Given her lack of political experience, Carnahan is emphasizing her work as a lawyer and a small-business owner. She has also spent time in Eastern Europe working for the National Democratic Institute, helping to write election laws for budding democracies. Then-President Ronald Reagan formed the institute to help former communist countries make the transition to democracy.

Throughout the campaign, Hanaway has questioned Carnahan’s inexperience with public office.

“What Carnahan can point to is that she went to Eastern Europe and observed elections,” Hanaway said. “Well, I’ve observed a doctor practicing medicine, but you don’t want me operating on you. That’s the big difference.”

Carnahan said it is Hanaway’s leadership that should be questioned.

“It has been a very heavy-handed, partisan approach to governing,” Carnahan said of Hanaway’s tenure as a legislator. “And, in an office like secretary of state, that is not appropriate. We need a secretary of state that is above partisanship.”

On the trail ...

During an Oct. 10 appearance at Boone County Republican Headquarters, Hanaway fielded questions from about 30 residents. The audience was allowed to ask anything at anytime, even while the candidate was still answering other questions.

Hanaway explained why she opposes a restructuring of the Electoral College in Missouri and supports allowing soldiers overseas to vote via e-mail.

For Hanaway, who makes five to seven campaign stops per day, the campaign schedule is no big deal.

“Honestly,” she said, “I work more hours per day when we are in legislative session. When I was speaker, it was not unusual for the day to start with me in the Capitol by 7:30 a.m. and not to leave till 2 a.m.”

Hanaway said being away from home makes campaigning difficult. She left her Warson Woods home in St. Louis County the morning of the 10th, a Sunday, and said she would not return until the following Saturday. Hanaway is married and has two children, a 2-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter.

“Every night you miss tucking your kids in bed, you can’t get that back,” she said. “There is never going to be another day they will be 2 years and 95 days old.”

On the morning of Oct. 9, Carnahan was in a Maplewood neighborhood on the southern border of St. Louis, surrounded by houses labeled “unfit for human occupancy.”

The trip was part of a statewide door-to-door canvass the Democratic Party sponsored to reach more than 1 million infrequent Democratic voters in Missouri.

Before the canvass, Carnahan addressed a crowd of about 200 volunteers ready to recruit voters. In her speech, she repeated that the secretary of state should make sure mishaps, such as the one that happened in Florida in 2000, do not happen in Missouri.

After the speech, Carnahan, along with three members of her full-time staff, took off after receiving a list of addresses at which to stop.

Most of the addresses on Carnahan’s list were in Maplewood Village Apartments. The few residents who answered Carnahan’s knocks often were reluctant to talk to her, opening the door only a crack until Carnahan explained who she was and the purpose of her visit.

Before Carnahan could even introduce herself to one of the residents, he said he didn’t want Missouri to be the next Florida. Another resident, after learning who she was, mentioned that she liked Carnahan’s parents when they were in office. Carnahan spent about five minutes at each apartment. After canvassing, Carnahan compared her leadership to Hanaway’s.

“This is an executive management office, not a legislative office,” Carnahan said, “so you want someone who has that kind of ability to actually manage this team of people in the office and give them guidance and get them to do what you want to do.”

Libertarian candidate Christopher Davis is running his Springfield-based campaign by depending on street signs and debate appearances. In the debates, he tells listeners that, if elected, he will emphasize restructuring the Electoral College and closing loopholes that allow big corporations to avoid paying taxes.

Davis would change the Electoral College so that two Senate votes would go to the presidential candidate who wins at large and each congressional vote would go to the candidate who won the district.

Ivanovich, of Fenton, has been unable to campaign as much as she wanted this year, she said. Her father has been ill, and she’s been forced to take time off work at St. Louis University to care for him.

“It’s terrible timing, but there is nothing you can do about it,” Ivanovich said. “You have to put family first.”

Ivanovich said that if she were elected she would focus most on rekindling interest in the electorate. She strongly supports the use of paper ballots at all polling places and the manual counting of votes. She opposes electronic voting systems.

Ivanovich said she isn’t in the race for the party politics and has the experience for the job because of her work in grass-roots organizations.

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