JEFFERSON CITY - The race for state Treasurer has caught the eye of third party candidates, eager to gain hold of an office that has propelled several state politicians into the political big leagues.
Four third party candidates have emerged in the Treasurer's race. Terrence Frank, a financial advisor, is the Reform Party candidate and Arnold Trembley, a software engineer, is running as the Liberatarian candidate. Nuclear physics student Ray Vanlandingham is carrying the Green Party banner while Kerry Culligan, a substitute teacher, is the Constitutional Party candidate.
The candidates have one thing in common--an uphill struggle to win the election in November.
Frank is a 40-year-old financial advisor from St. Louis County. A life-long Republican, Frank decided to jump ship when the Arizona Sen. John McCain's Straight Talk Express rolled his way earlier this year.
"I got involved in the McCain campaign," he explained. "On Super Tuesday, the Republican party left me" when Texas Gov. George W. Bush effectively secured the Republican party nomination.
Like McCain, Frank pushes for campaign finance reform and thinks the Reform party will be more open to his ideas. He said he thinks of running for Treasurer "as a way of presenting McCain's views."
"I wanted to make the issue to the other candidates through the bully pulpit," he said. "People would look up to the person who's dealing with the money."
Frank's campaign finance proposals include prohibiting individuals in corporations from contributing to the state Treasurer's Office, prohibiting political parties from donating soft money to promote candidates in state-wide elections and mandating that 80 % of state campaign funds be raised by Missourians.
The candidate does have some political experience. From 1988 to 1992, he served as an Alderman and ran unsuccessfully for mayor of St. Louis in 1991. He has also helped advise Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Talent, one of the current candidates for governor.
He has spent the last 15 years as a financial advisor for Paine Webber in St. Louis.
As a computer programmer for 21 years, the Libertarian candidate, Arnold Trembley, wants to make the state's computer systems more efficient. But he has a few other ideas too.
Trembley would also like to return more lost property to citizens in the state's unclaimed property program. The office now has over $130 million in property.
In addition, he wants more state employers to give employees a payroll tax deduction for contributing to the Missouri Savings for Tuition (MOST) program -- an initiative that allows parents to save for their children's college education by investing money in a federally tax-deferred account.
"I think that's still rare at this point," Trembley said.
Trembley is a Missouri native from Webster Groves. He graduated from Northern Arizona University in 1973 and went back to a local community college for a computer programming degree in 1978.
Although Trembley is apprehensive about his chances for winning the race, he said he hopes people realize that "it's OK to vote for something other than the two major parties."
"It's never a waste to vote your conscience," he added.
Vanlandingham, the Green Party candidate, has focused his campaign on the MISSOURI FIRST Linked Deposit program--a program that deposits state funds in Missouri banks and accepts a lower rate of return. The banks then give out low-interest loans to borrowers.
The candidate said there is now no regulation over who receives the loans. He said this could create a conflict of interest if a business who has contributed to the Treasurer's political campaign gets a MISSOURI FIRST loan, for example.
He wants to set up a rating system based on which businesses would use the loan money in the best way. For instance, certain businesses who are friendly with the Green Party could get preferrential treatment.
"The money would be used to further the environmental and economic goals the Green Party is associated with," Vanlandingham said. "If someone wants to be an organic farmer, it would make them more eligible for the loan."
The 22-year old nuclear physics student has never held political office before or had any experience in the financial world--something he said is a point in his favor.
"I'm not a professional politician," he said. "I also have not worked in the field of high finance. That's not essential to the office of State Treasurer."
Vanlandingham has served in the Navy as a nuclear engineer since 1996. He will graduate from Southwest Missouri University in two years and plans to stay in school to complete his doctorate if he does not win the race.
Culligan has been involved in the Constitutional party since 1995 when he helped gather enough signatures to get the party on the ballot. He is a substitute teacher in Manchester and is originally from Long Island, NY.
The candidate wants to improve "fiscal responsibility" and push for term limits.
Although most of the third party candidates acknowledge that their chances for winning the race are slim, St. Louis University political science professor Ken Warren said the candidates can get a message out by running for a state-wide office.
"The group itself feels that it should run to get their message out and have some impact on the two major candidates," Warren said.
But, he added, "once in a while, in a fluke, a third party candidate can win."