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Campaign manager struggles with sacrifices of statewide race

September 14, 2000
By: Katy Scott
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Few know the sacrifices a statewide campaign requires better than Precious, Foof Toy and Snuggle Bunny.

The three are the pet dogs of Kevin Edwards, the campaign manager for the GOP candidate for Missouri attorney general. And that job has taken Edwards away from home, and from his pets, for days at a time.

Edwards, who is working to get Republican Sam Jones elected, became involved in the campaign more than a year ago for the same reason many campaign managers accept such jobs: He saw a future for himself in politics.

"I've always been fascinated by history and politics," he said. "I was interested in a political job."

But working the campaign trail has had its effect on Edwards' ambitions to someday run for office.

"It would be nice to be a congressman or a senator or a governor, if I could be appointed," he said. "But, in working in this job, I've seen how much hard work it takes, what sacrifices you have to make. You've got to start a year and a half, two years before the election."

Another person who knows about those sacrifices first-hand is Margaret Onken, the campaign manager for Democratic incumbent Jay Nixon. Onken, however, said she was not worthy of a profile.

"I'm just one of many people out here supporting the attorney general," she said. "It just happens I'm the one answering the phone ... The focus really should be on the attorney general and Mr. Jones."

Edwards, who appears in his early 30s but refuses to disclose his age, said he always has had an interest in politics. His career in government didn't officially begin until he entered college, just over a decade ago.

Raised in Springfield, Edwards decided to go to law school because he was told that a law degree would provide him with several career options, he said.

He said he got involved with a friend's campaign for judge and "caught the bug." He then moved on to work on Roy Blunt's congressional campaign in Springfield.

Edwards' grandfather lived near Jones in Lawrence County and had heard good things about the former judge. When he heard Jones was looking for a campaign manager, Edwards' grandfather notified Edwards, who eagerly threw in his hat. And in July 1999, Edwards began working for the attorney general candidate. But, he said, being the top man on a statewide campaign has its drawbacks.

"This is not a job I'd want for the rest of my life," he said. "This is a young person's job."

Currently, Edwards said, the campaign is his life.

"Dating is not something you can do while working on a campaign," he said.

The only photo on his office desk is of the three dogs that technically belong to his mother.

And being one of only two campaign workers in a race against incumbent Nixon adds quite a bit of stress to the full-time job. But, he said, in the past year, he has achieved many of the goals set for the campaign.

"Our concentration when we first started was to avoid a Republican primary," he said. "We were successful. Since then, our two major goals have been to raise Sam's name I.D. and to get the word out about why there needs to be a change in the attorney general's office."

And, Edwards said, there are several reasons a change is necessary. One issue Jones' campaign has centered around is the attorney's fees in the tobacco settlement. Edwards said those fees should be waived because of the minimal amount of work Missouri's attorneys performed in the multi-state suit handled by attorneys in states other than Missouri. Edwards said the only way to get such fees waived is to get Jones in office.

Although Edwards admitted that his time as Jones' campaign manager has been anything but a walk in the park, some still think his future might be a political one.

"Right now, this is where he should be," said Lyndell Beard, a friend of Edwards'. "Kevin definitely belongs in politics."