Thursday, September 23, 2004

I attended the candidates' forum in Clayton this morning. Afterwards, as I walked to my car, I heard a woman behind me say to her companion, "Catharine was superb. She makes me so proud to be a Republican. Every time she opens her mouth, she makes me proud." Not my take on it, exactly, but I could understand her approval. Both Carnahan and Hanaway are excellent speakers: cogent, concise and articulate. By the way, Carnahan is well ahead in the polls right now. I think Hanaway is finding herself battling the same name recognition that Jeff Smith was up against with Russ Carnahan. But I don't mean to denigrate Robin. She acquitted herself well this morning, and she did make me proud to be a Democrat.
I confess that one reason I attended was that I wanted to see how hardhearted Hanaway comports herself in public. I've gotten the impression, these last couple of years, that she would strike me as someone who could have been a guard at a women's prison in her last life, a kindred soul with General Janis Karpinski. Hanaway was too savvy, though, to reveal more than hints of her fang and claw side. She talked the talk of the bipartisan guardian of fair voting in our state.
Each candidate laid out her ideas for handling the various duties of the Secretary of State, but the questions usually focused on fair voting. When they were asked their opinions of early voting, Carnahan registered a resounding YES for no fault absentee balloting (which is already legal in 32 states). She pointed out that if her opponent were in favor of it, the Republican legislature could surely have enacted it. Hanaway thought early voting would be okay . . .someday--after she's ferreted out all the cheats who try to vote twice. She returned to that theme several times. Did she wink when she promised to make sure ALL the polls open and close at the same time? Whether the wink was literal or not hardly mattered because the predominantly Republican (Clayton!) crowd loved it. They understand code words implying that underhanded Democrats cannot be trusted at the polls.
Most of the debate was civil. Carnahan stressed her experience as a small businesswoman who understands the frustration of dealing with red tape at the Secretary of State's office, and she would simplify that process in a number of ways, especially by making all the filings available online. Hanaway concurred about the necessity of cutting red tape and implementing computerizing filings. She mentioned twice the importance of investor education as a means of preventing securities fraud. Another of Carnahan's qualifications is that she helped set up democratic elections in several Eastern European nations. Carnahan probably set off her rival by observing that she (Carnahan) was "guilty" of not being in the legislature during its recent gridlock. Hanaway shot back that standing up for what's right is leadership, not partisanship. Furthermore, she said, "I own a small business. I don't talk about it every time I step to the podium. I have legislative as well as business and legal experience." She accused Carnahan of being completely partisan because Robin's only political experience has been working in Democratic campaigns and being sent to Europe by Democrats to help set up elections there. Robin responded, smiling, by describing how gratifying it was to see a country have its first election.
The only other overt hint of Hanaway's nasty nature occurred after Carnahan spoke fondly of having been raised in Missouri. Hanaway's response intrigued me. "As many of you know, I wasn't raised here. I came here for a job," she said, with a Cheneyesque sneer. I'm not sure why that statement rated a sneer, but it was entertaining to watch her flex her claws. Carnahan's disposition is sunny in comparison.
In a way, I wish I could have attended the forum knowing nothing about the two women. Now I'll never know if I would have picked up readily on Hanaway's veiled prison guard mentality.


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