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Close race for governor ends with Holden on top

November 08, 2000
By: Lauren Shepherd
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The race for governor remained too close to call early Wednesday morning, with Democrat Bob Holden holding a paper-thin lead over Republican Jim Talent and Missouri voters splitting the rest of the ticket between the two parties.

At press time early Wednesday morning, Republican Jim Talent received 48.6 percent of the vote with 77 percent of precincts reporting. His opponent, Democrat Bob Holden recieved 48.9 percent.

At the Republican camp at Orlando Garlands in St. Louis, supporters waved tiny American flags and held Talent signs in a large packed room. Cool and the Gang's "Celebrate" played to an enthusiastic and optimistic crowd. Talent, appearing relaxed and followed by a congo line of sign-holding supporters, said he doesn't believe the race was decided on any one issue.

"When a race is this close, it hinges on everything and nothing," Talent said.

He added that he was pleased with the way he ran his campaign, win or lose.

"I feel like if you really try to do the right thing in the right way in a campaign, then you should take satisfaction regardless of the outcome," Talent said.

As election day ended and the morning after began, Holden addressed his supporters at the Democratic party at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis, stirring up the crowd who shouted "Go, Bob, Go."

"We have confidence that at the end of the night, I will be the next governor of the state of Missouri," Holden said. "I didn't promise we'd win by a landslide--I just promised we'd win."

The rest of the ticket was split between the two parties, with two Republicans--including George W. Bush for President--and four Democrats claiming victory at press time.

As of 12:35 a.m, Democratic state Sen. Joe Maxwell defeated Republican Wendell Bailey 51.4 percent to 44.8 percent in the lieutenant governor's race while Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon was reelected, winning over Republican Sam Jones 59.2 percent over 38.5 percent.

In the treasurer's contest, former asst. treasurer Democratic candidate Nancy Farmer won against Republican Platte County prosecutor Todd Graves by 3.8 percent. In the secretary of state's race, state Rep. Matt Blunt, R-Fair Grove, defeated Speaker of the House state Rep. Steve Gaw by 7.5 percent.

The governor's race, one of the closest in the state, was a hard-fought contest won "on the margins," said Rick Hardy, University of Missouri political science professor.

"The party bases are pretty solid right now," Hardy said. "To win, they had to the get the undecided and marginal voters."

Analysts have predicted for weeks that all the races, especially the close contests, could hinge on only a few votes.

A high turnout, like the one in this election, usually favors Democrats, although it's still unclear how the turnout affected this year's races. The Secretary of State's office predicted a turnout of about 2.4 million voters in Missouri, or about 66 percent of registered voters.

Because of the high turnout in the state causing long lines and crowds, a circuit court judge granted the Democrats' request to keep the polls in St. Louis open until 10 p.m. But an appeals judge overturned the request and forced the polls to close at 8 p.m., not allowing anyone else to vote.

Ann Wagner, chairman of the state republican party, said she thought voters were choosing the governor Tuesday between the candidates' education policies and their ideas for fixing the state's highways.

During the campaign, Talent touted his idea for a $10 billion bond issue to fix the state's highway system. Holden, however, did not offer a plan.

In the final weeks of the campaign, Talent said he would consider a win a mandate for the bond issue, but University of Missouri political science professor Greg Casey said a candidate would have to win 60 percent of the vote to claim a mandate.

Casey said a Talent or Holden win may not mean Missouri residents would see any big changes in policy, since he would need a strong Democratic majority in the legislature to enact any major legislation. The parties are now tied in the state Senate and Democrats hold a slim majority in the state House.

"Most governors get in and find it very difficult to achieve major changes," Casey added.

Hardy said he doubts voters based their decisions on any one issue.

"There is no issue that has really grabbed the attention of voters," he said.

Hardy and Casey agreed that the other statewide races follow the same pattern, with no issue or candidate exciting voters.

Both said most smaller state-wide races are decided based on the candidate's party affiliation.

"Usually, lower offices don't get too much attention," Casey said. "They track pretty well the vote for governor and the vote for Senate."

But Hardy said 60-65 percent of Missouri voters typically split their tickets between the two parties when they vote.

Paul Monies and Kate Miller contributed information to this story.