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Attorney General debate garners little interest

September 07, 2000
By: Katy Scott
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - One of the first debates by candidates for Missouri's attorney general had a major no-show -- the incumbent, Democrat Jay Nixon.

But Nixon was not the only one who skipped the debate. Only about 15 showed up in the 600-seat auditorium, and about half of them were campaign workers.

One audience member, Ray Stephen Marshall, a political science professor at Lincoln, wondered aloud why so few showed up for a debate concerning what some political scientists consider the second-most important position in Missouri government, after only the governorship.

Both Libertarian candidate Mitch Moore and Republican candidate Sam Jones had answers.

Moore chalked up the low turnout to voters' feelings that there is little difference between the two major parties.

"People rightly feel their vote doesn't make a difference," he said.

Jones, however, said Nixon's administration could be blamed for the lack of interest.

"The slogan we have chosen for our campaign is 'people above politics,'" he said. "(Nixon) is not putting people above politics."

The candidates spent much of the debate discussing illegal drugs, with Moore contending that America's war on drugs has done nothing but further drug use in the nation. He said that because there is money to be made in drugs, people will continue to sell them.

"If you want to put the meth dealers out of business, if you want to put the dope dealers out of business, if you want to put the cocaine dealers out of business, legalize drugs," he said.

Jones brought up methamphetamine, on which many Missouri Republicans have focused their campaigns.

While not going into details, Jones said that because of meth, his niece is in the federal witness protection program and her brother is dead.

"The war on methamphetamine is personal with me," he said. "I'm not ready to give up on the war."

While Jones voiced his support for the death penalty, saying Missouri's system had not yet failed, Moore spoke about his opposition to capital punishment.

He cited several reasons for his position, including his beliefs that the death penalty is tainted by racism and human fallibility.

"You're never going to see a rich white guy executed," he said. "How many innocent people are we just in killing to prove killing is wrong."

One thing on which the candidates did agree was the class-action tobacco lawsuit. Both criticized Missouri's role in the suit, with Moore saying the suit should have been unconstitutional.

"If Sam Jones is elected attorney general, there will be no lawsuits against legal products," Jones said.