(Note: The following post is my column for this week's Newton County News.)
A message to Sarah Steelman and Kenny Hulshof- You’re no Bill Webster and Roy Blunt.
I have heard this year’s race for the Republican nomination for governor compared to the infamous 1992 GOP bloodbath, but as a reporter who covered the ’92 race, I can tell you, this year’s race is just a pale imitation.
Yes, the 1992 race featured plenty of negative advertising, much of it coming from Roy Blunt, but it was substantive advertising based on real ethical problems that Bill Webster had. If Blunt had been given one more week before the primary, his momentum may well have carried him past Webster and saved the GOP a resounding defeat. Instead, Mel Carnahan, considered by some to be a sacrificial lamb to Webster, was able to use the material from Blunt’s advertisements to win the race and eventually Webster landed in a federal prison.
What have Mrs. Steelman and Hulshof given voters hungry for substance? Viagra.
Thanks to Mrs. Steelman, we know that Kenny Hulshof cast a vote that included funding for Viagra through Medicare. Thanks to Hulshof we know Mrs. Steel man voted for Viagra for prisoners when she was in the Senate.
Neither bothered to mention that those votes were not as simplistic as the ads made them sound. That would be letting the truth get in the way of good old attack advertising.
We also have the odd situation of the Republicans having the incumbent governor, but neither candidate wanting to be too closely linked with his record. The circumstances surrounding the sudden departure of Matt Blunt from the race have still not been explained in any satisfactory fashion. Blunt announced he would not seek a second term, claiming he had accomplished everything he wanted to do in his first four years. I would love to have a look at what his original goals looked like. Talk about setting the bar low.
In fact, whichever candidate emerges to face Attorney General Jay Nixon in November, whether it is Hulshof or Mrs. Steel man, should benefit from not being too closely connected with the governor.
Had the Republicans chosen someone like Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder or Speaker of the House Rod Jetton, the woes that surround Blunt could have been convincing campaign issues.
As it is, it will be nearly impossible for Democrats to connect Sarah Steel man or Kenny Hulshof with the infamous license fee office for sale scandal, with the current misuse and probable destruction of e-mails, or with the 2005 decisions which removed thousands of people from Medicaid eligibility.
It would be nice if the general election became a referendum on the leadership abilities and positions on the issues of Jay Nixon and whomever the Republicans nominate.
It would be nice, but I am not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen. Sad to say, we may reach a point sometime in October when we long for the good old days when the candidates discussed substantive issues like Viagra.
For those who want to relive the 1992 governor's race, several chapters from the book version of The Turner Report are devoted to that race. More information about the book can be found at this link.