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Meth war in Senate race rambles on

September 11, 2000
By: Clayton Bellamy
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri U.S. Senate campaign debate over who's tougher against meth moved to the steps of Missouri's capitol Monday.

In a rebuttal of a rebuttal, Missouri Republican lawmakers and sheriffs, joined by a staffer from the John Ashcroft Senate campaign, attacked Gov. Mel Carnahan's funding of the war against methamphetamine Monday, saying he repeatedly requested less money than the Highway Patrol wanted.

In the back of the news conference, Carnahan's legal counsel Joe Bednar handed out different funding figures aiming to show that the governor has been on top of the state's meth problem for years.

The back-and-forth began with an Ashcroft campaign ad depicting Carnahan as failing in the war against methamphetamine. Various law enforcement officials say Missouri ranks second in the nation for meth production.

Democratic lawmakers and prosecutors last week rebutted the ad, calling a 1998 law Carnahan supported one of the toughest in the nation. When that law was working its way through the legislature, one Republican Senator and some law enforcement official said they were concerned that bill might go too far.

At Monday's news conference, Republican House Leader Delbert Scott said he voted for the 1998 law because it was an improvement on the laws of the time, but, he said, the real issue is funding,

"State funding to fight meth has been woefully inadequate," said Scott, of Lowry City. "Carnahan requested less than a nickel on the dollar the Highway Patrol requested."

Bednar countered with figures showing a total of $3.7 million Carnahan requested in 1999, including both state and federal funds. The Republicans said Carnahan had only requested about $273,000 since 1994.

Cass County Prosecutor Chris Koster said both Carnahan and Ashcroft were in office during meth's rise in the '90s and Ashcroft has a superior record of fighting the problem.

He said in the Senate, Ashcroft pushed the 1997 High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area legislation that provided $40 million to the Kansas City area to fight that region's burgeoning meth problem.

Bednar said the governor was involved in developing the proposal in 1996.