Missouri senator in tight race with dead challenger


Associated Press

ST. LOUIS – A live incumbent found himself locked in a tight race with a dead challenger tonight in a pivotal U.S. Senate election transformed by tragedy during the campaign’s final days.

The plane crash that killed Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan, his son and an aide last month turned the nationally watched contest against Republican Sen. John Ashcroft from notoriously bitter to bizarre.

The crash occurred too late to revise the ballot. No one had ever posthumously won election to the Senate, though voters on at least three occasions sent deceased candidates to the House.

Late today, with 43 percent of precincts reporting, the race was too close to call. Ashcroft held a lead of 51 percent to 48 percent, but results were out from St. Louis, a Democratic stronghold, and deeply conservative Greene County, Ashcroft’s home turf.

“It’s probably a little early to start a full-blown celebration,” Ashcroft told supporters in St. Louis.

Gov. Roger Wilson, who took office after Carnahan’s death Oct. 16, said he would appoint Carnahan’s 66-year-old widow, Jean, to a two-year term should Ashcroft lose.

Ashcroft, 58, resumed his campaign eight days after the crash, airing his own new TV ad featuring former Sen. John Danforth, a mentor, telling Missourians, “What’s happening today to John Ashcroft is just not right.”

Meanwhile, the late governor’s campaign spent $700,000 to broadcast Jean Carnahan making a direct appeal to voters to keep her husband’s vision alive.

She answered a dozen questions in writing from The Associated Press, describing views in favor of abortion rights, gun control and other issues, all reflecting stands by her husband in direct opposition to Ashcroft’s.

In St. Louis, long lines of voters led a state judge, at Democrats’ request, to order the city to keep its polls open until 10 p.m., three extra hours. A shortage of booths, ballots, judges and equipment had vexed the city throughout the day.

But the Board of Election Commissioners appealed swiftly, and a three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals ordered the polls closed immediately – after they had been open nearly an extra hour.

The petition was filed by Congressional candidate William Lacy Clay, the Missouri Democratic Committee and the Gore-Lieberman campaign.


The closeness of the race was reflected in comments from voters today. In downtown Kansas City, 59-year-old Richard Cruse voted for Ashcroft. “It would have been close with Carnahan, but I’m not going to vote for a blind spot with no experience,” he said.

Ellen Schimpf, 29, voted for Carnahan. “I’m somebody’s wife, and I know I could step in and take over my husband’s business if I had to. I think Jean Carnahan could do it, too,” she said.

Both popular vote-getters elected twice as Missouri governor, Carnahan and Ashcroft were politically like night and day.

Ashcroft, a favorite of religious conservatives when he mulled a White House bid, signed restrictive abortion laws as governor that later were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Carnahan, who served one term as Ashcroft’s lieutenant governor and succeeded Ashcroft, vetoed further abortion restrictions as well as concealed weapons legislation.

For years, Missouri political analysts and observers have remarked on the dislike between the two, although Ashcroft and Carnahan both denied it.

Their campaign featured allegations of racism against Ashcroft and a response that included a 40-year-old photo of Carnahan in blackface. They also battled over capital punishment, a controversy generated by Carnahan’s decision, at Pope John Paul II’s behest, to commute a murderer’s death sentence.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A big decision for Boeing’s next CEO: Is it time for a new plane?

As Boeing faces increased competition from Airbus, the company is expected to appoint a new CEO by the end of the year.

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Mukilteo Speedway name change is off to a bumpy start

The city’s initial crack at renaming the main drag got over 1,500 responses. Most want to keep the name.

Two workers walk past a train following a press event at the Lynnwood City Center Link Station on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Trains up and running on Lynnwood Link — but no passengers quite yet

Officials held an event at the Lynnwood station announcing the start of “pre-revenue” service. Passengers still have to wait till August.

Nedra Vranish, left, and Karen Thordarson, right browse colorful glass flowers at Fuse4U during Sorticulture on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
A promenade through Everett’s popular Sorticulture garden festival

Check out a gallery of the festival’s first day.

Left to right, Everett Pride board members Ashley Turner, Bryce Laake, and Kevin Daniels pose for a photo at South Fork Bakery in Everett, Washington on Sunday, May 26, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Second Everett Pride aims for even bigger rainbow of festivities

Organizers estimated about 3,000 people attended the first block party in Everett. This year, they’re aiming for 10,000.

A house fire seriously injured two people Friday evening, June 14, in Edmonds, Washington. (Courtesy of South County Fire.)
1 killed, 1 with life-threatening injuries in Edmonds house fire

South County Fire crews pulled the man and woman from the burning home around 6 p.m. Friday, near 224th Street SW and 72nd Place W.

Melinda Grenier serves patrons at her coffee truck called Hay Girl Coffee during the third annual Arlington Pride event in Arlington, Washington on Sunday, June 2, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Hidden costs, delays crush hopeful food truck owners in Snohomish County

Melinda Grenier followed her dream to open Hay Girl Coffee. Thousands in fees later, it has cost her more than she bargained for.

The I-5, Highway 529 and the BNSF railroad bridges cross over Union Slough as the main roadways for north and southbound traffic between Everett and Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Highway 529 squeeze starts now between Everett, Marysville

Following a full closure for a night, starting late Sunday, Highway 529 will slim down to two lanes for months near the Snohomish River Bridge.

New Jersey auto group purchases Lynnwood Lexus dealership land

Holman, which owns Lexus of Seattle in Lynnwood, bought property on which the dealership resides.

Marvin Arellano (Photo provided)
Family: ‘Manic episode’ preceded trooper shooting man on I-5 near Everett

“It’s very, very unfortunate how he was portrayed in his final moments,” Gilbert Arellano said. “He was just such a good person.”

Two visitors comb the beach at Kayak Point Regional County Park on Friday, June 14, 2024, in Tulalip, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Kayak Point reopens ahead of schedule

The county’s most popular park reopened Friday.

Grauates throw their caps in the air at the end of Arlington High School graduation at Angel of the Winds Arena on Thursday, June 13, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘So worth it’: Snohomish County graduates step into their futures

Alyssa Acosta, who is Harvard-bound, was one of thousands to walk the stage at Angel of the Winds Arena this month to get high school diplomas.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.