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Youth Manages SOS Campaigns

September 05, 2000
By: Matt Thornton
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - When it comes to the campaign for Missouri's Secretary of State, put aside the idea of a grizzled, gray-haired war room boss running the show.

The campaign managers for the two leading candidates both are in their 20s -- but bring experience in differing ways to their respective campaigns.

Corey Dillon, a 27 year-old spark plug of energy, pulls the strings for Democrat and current House Speaker Steve Gaw.

Dillon is a mother of two young children and native of Missouri. She is a veteran of political campaigns having worked in the failed bid of Congressional candidate Jim Fossard in 1994 and Gaw's successful reelection campaign in 1998.

Dillon joined Gaw's campaign in 1997 -- working up from correspondence, bookkeeping, and fund raising to heading the current campaign, which she has done for more than a year.

Unlike Dillon, the campaign manager for the GOP Secretary of State candidate derives his experience in politics and political campaigns from his extensive family background.

In fact, Andy Blunt is the younger brother of Republican candidate Matt Blunt. Both are sons of former two-term Missouri secretary of state and current Springfield Congressional Representative Roy Blunt.

Gaining knowledge through the past campaign's of his father and extensive work on his brother's successful bid for the state house in 1998, 24 year-old Andy Blunt now heads up the statewide campaign for his brother.

However, Blunt is quick to point out, he would not likely be heading any candidate's campaign other than his brother's.

In fact, Blunt made the decision to put his career plans on hold to pilot his brother's campaign. Blunt was entering his second year of law school when he received the call from his brother to run the show. Without thinking, he jumped at the chance.

Both Blunt and Dillon have similar educational backgrounds. Blunt graduated with a combination degree in history and political science from Southwest Baptist University.

Dillon also majored in political science during her three year stint at Truman State College and currently seeks to complete that degree from Lincoln University in Jefferson City. This though is where their respective similarities end.

As a member of a generation of voters who are becoming increasingly dismayed toward politics and voting in general, Dillon said that one of the most important issues facing the next secretary will be addressing a growing lack of voter participation. To that end, Gaw is proposing to institute a program of town hall type forums after he is elected.

Dillon said these forums given at community halls, schools, and other civic centers would give the individual voter more involvement in government and thereby hopefully increase voter awareness and participation.

As the mother of two small children, one of which is enrolled at the public West Elementary school in Jefferson City, Dillon voices concern about the state of public education in Missouri. Not surprisingly, she extolled the benefits of her candidates "Read to be Ready" bill which was signed into law in 1999.

The law specifically targets improving literacy through providing grants to local schools for early grade levels. It also creates a loan forgiveness program for education college students who teach in critical teaching areas. The program, Dillon argues, is an important step in improving our states educational system for the future.

Although Andy Blunt agrees that education is a pressing issue, Blunt says the most important aspects of the secretary of state's office revolve around the Elections Division and the Business Services Department. Specifically, he said that the next secretary of state must establish integrity in the elections process.

He said that people need to have faith in the election process thereby eliminating voter skepticism about politics and elections.

Agreeing with Dillon on the importance of voter participation, Blunt went on to say that Matt Blunt's recent "Responsible Citizens Initiative" proposal will set the tone for voter participation at a very young age.

The proposal includes creating an interactive web site for children with historical facts, how and where to vote, and visits by the secretary to public schools and libraries.

"If we expect our children to be responsible citizens of tomorrow it is critical they are taught about the past," candidate Blunt said.

Andy Blunt said that the office needs to be a catalyst for new development in the state. He says "the state government should operate at the speed of Missouri business."

This, he said, can be achieved through implementing widespread computerization of the office. This would allow new entrepreneurs to obtain the necessary paperwork over the web. He also said they plan to launch pilot projects which will contain historical information of the state in the form of visual files to make research by individuals more user friendly.

Although Dillon stated that voter participation, security for seniors, increasing literacy and accessibility to government, and campaign finance are vital issues in this campaign, she said the defining issue between the candidates is experience.

She went on to say, although Matt Blunt is a fine candidate, he lacks the experience that Gaw brings to the office.

"I have never seen a candidate more committed to do what is right. If people could see what I see, there would be no question who to vote for,"

"Mr. Gaw has the experience and vision to move the office forward," said Dillon.

Andy Blunt argues that his brother's managerial experience in the Navy gives him much more practical experience in running the office of secretary of state.

Blunt said, however, the election will come down to who the people of Missouri trust to run the office and which candidate works the hardest.

Simply put, Blunt argued, "Matt is the harder working of the candidates."