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Carnahan begins airing campaign ads

November 02, 2000
By: Lauren Shepherd
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Jean Carnahan unveiled her first television commercial Thursday asking voters to cast their ballots for her late husband, Gov. Mel Carnahan, to keep his legacy alive.

"With the support of my family, I've decided to do what I think Mel would want me to do -- what he wants all of us to do -- to keep fighting with all the strength we can muster for the values and ideals that we lived for," Jean Carnahan says in the ad. "Now the choice is up to you."

The 60-second spot features Jean Carnahan speaking directly to the camera.

Carnahan does not raise any specific issue nor make any reference the GOP incumbent, Sen. John Ashcroft.

Carnahan campaign communications director Tony Wyche said the ad will play state-wide, but the campaign is still unsure how long they will air the ad.

"Our decisions are being made on a day-to-day basis," Wyche said.

Before Mel Carnahan's death, campaign staffers say they had purchased about $1.5 million in TV time across the state.

On Monday, Jean Carnahan accepted Gov. Roger Wilson offer to appoint her to the U.S. Senate if her husband garners the most votes on election day. Mel Carnahan, his son, Roger, and a campaign aide died in a plane crash near St. Louis on Oct. 16 on his way to a campaign rally. Mel Carnahan's name will remain on the ballot.

Since no candidate has died so close to election day and remained on the ballot, the Carnahan campaign has had no precedent for how to conduct a campaign against the Republican incumbent. Since the crash, the campaign has aired no commercials while Ashcroft has stuck to ads emphasizing his record on issues.

Wyche described this first Carnahan ad as a "personal message" to Missourians "reminding them of the things that helped her make this decision and encouraging them to go show their support by going to the polls on Nov. 7 to vote for Mel Carnahan."

John Hancock, executive director of the state Republican party, said he had not seen the ad yet, but the Ashcroft campaign will not change its strategy or its message now that Jean Carnahan is on the air.

"I think John Ashcroft is doing the right thing in focusing on his accomplishments, his record, his service on behalf of the people of Missouri, and his vision for the future of the country as a member of the U.S. Senate," Hancock said.

Besides his ads, Ashcroft is traveling the state on a campaign bus he calls "Show-Me Experience Express." The Associated Press reported Thursday that a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter has been excluded from the campaign bus because of what a campaign official called negative coverage.

Deputy campaign manager Steve Hilton said the reporter, Deirdre Shesgreen, was not allowed to board the bus and interview Ashcroft Wednesday because the newspaper has been an "opponent" to the campaign.

Ashcroft has been unhappy with coverage of his campaign, particularly by the Post-Dispatch. The candidate mentioned the paper at an event in Columbia Saturday with George W. Bush, saying "I know who my opponent is. I think you do, too. It is part of the news media, including the Post-Dispatch."

Wyche said Jean Carnahan has no announced campaign plans yet, other than the campaign ad, except for a possible appearance at a concert in honor of her husband on Friday night in St. Louis with singers Sheryl Crow and Don Henley and actor Kevin Kline.