July 29, 2004

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if there were a rhyme or reason to how we voted? Theoretically, we should all be educated pollsters exercising our right to select the individuals we feel best suited to govern us.

But in the real world, most people (at least those that actually take the time to go vote) simply look for a name that they recognize, and if that doesnít work, then just check the one at the top of the list.

Now Iím not casting stones here, because I live in a glass house as far as politics are concerned. Heading into the August 3 primary, I was no more knowledgeable about the 11 different candidates for State Treasurer, than the next guy. Iíve read the two constitutional amendments but Iíve never really sat down and decided how I feel. For that matter Iím not even sure which ballot Iím going to take on Tuesday, Republican or Democrat (I ruled out Libertarian due to the lack of local candidates.)

So my basic lack of knowledge thrust me into a personal fact-finding mission. After several hours on the internet and at the library I decided I should be compiling my research for a little story (see page 1 Who are these guys Öand gals?) to hopefully enlighten you on the political choices we have. Enlighten may be too broad a term there, weíll offer you insight, as much as a few paragraphs per candidate can provide.

Thatís right, we do have choices, and Iím not just talking about Claire McCaskill or Bob Holden for the Democratic governor nominee. There are several other, less publicized contests for party nominations as voters will pick candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State and Treasurer.

However, I must say that quantity does not always make up for quality. Take the governorís race for example. Sure there is the highly touted McCaskill vs. Holden war. But on the Republican side there is Matt Blunt, the one-term Secretary of State with the well known political name. Donít get me wrong, Iím not saying Mr. Blunt isnít a good candidate (as a matter of fact I think heíll do a fine job as our next governor) Iím simply stating he could stand some competition.

Sure there are five other names on the Republican ticket for governor, but of those five, only one has a website. Not only does Blunt have name recognition he also has a $4 million-plus war chest. The others havenít raised more than the few thousand dollar limit that requires filing the public report.

Of course not having a famous name or millions of dollars in campaign contributions doesnít make you a bad candidate. It simply makes you an unknown, and in politics unknown does not go hand-in-hand with victory.

But even if we do know who our choices are, what next? Look at the State Treasurer race. Geez, you would think that the winning treasurer gets to keep all the stateís money as many high-profile politicians that are running for the position.

Investing our stateís money is an important job. But how are we non-stock broker types to know which candidate is the best for the job? Itís not like any of the other legislative or administrative jobs, where the candidates can play on our special interests. It really doesnít matter if our next State Treasurer is Pro-Life or Anti-Guns.

So how do we choose? This is a tough one, since there is more than one name that we recognize. Itís not a terribly high-profile race, so thereís not a bunch of advertising and other marketing that can sway us one way or the other. Do we dare give heed to political endorsements? I for one donít put too much stock behind organizations or media outlets that try to pick our candidate for us. Sure, itís nice if there is a certain endorser out there whom you truly trust. But otherwise it usually just leaves me wondering what the endorsee has to give the endorser when elected.

Sorry folks, I havenít been much help here. Through all this rambling, I havenít made your job any easier. But I hope you remember on Tuesday that it is your job to go to the poll and vote.

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