JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Robin Carnahan was one of the lone bright spots for Democrats in 2004 when she was elected secretary of state.
Daughter of a former governor and former U.S. senator and the sister of a congressman, she was one of just two Democrats to win in statewide elections. And now she is looking for a second crack at overseeing Missouri’s elections, regulating investments and handling business filings.
“My first term has been about common sense and results, that’s what I want my next term to be about as well,” Carnahan said.
But Republican challenger Mitch Hubbard, who lives in Fulton and is the manager of a McDonald’s, contends Carnahan hasn’t been fair in how she conducts elections — namely the summaries her office must write for ballot measures.
The issue of ballot measures and initiative petitions has become increasingly contentious as a larger number of groups seek to bypass the state Legislature and have the voters decide for themselves whether to approve new laws and constitutional amendments.
Hubbard was in charge of organizing the central part of the state to oppose one such measure in 2006. He worked for Missourians Against Human Cloning, which opposed a constitutional amendment that guaranteed embryonic stem cell research legal under federal law also remains legal in Missouri. The measure narrowly passed.
Hubbard said the secretary of state’s office helped supporters by writing a biased summary. A trial court upheld that but ordered rewrites for 2008 initiatives on stem cell research and affirmative action. An appeals court later determined that only one word in the 2008 stem cell ballot summary needed to be changed. But neither of the questioned 2008 measures actually made it to the ballot.
“Carnahan has glaring examples of writing poor ballot language,” Hubbard said.
Carnahan said her office has written dozens of ballot summaries since she took office and that most haven’t resulted in problems. She said that Hubbard’s complaints about her ballot summaries aren’t valid because he worked to oppose one of the petitions.
“We’re in litigation all the time, and quite frankly, both sides are often unhappy,” she said. “We get sued by both sides, and so I think we’re doing the right thing.”
Carnahan’s high-powered family lineage and fundraising prowess helped keep away higher profile potential Republican challengers. State campaign finance reports show that through the beginning of September, she had raised more than 300 times as much money as Hubbard and had far more cash still on hand — $789,765 compared to Hubbard’s $833.
Carnahan also is ahead in the polls. A survey released earlier this week showed her leading 51 percent to 40 percent with 7 percent undecided.
The telephone poll of 800 likely voters was conducted Sept. 15-18 by Research 2000 for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and television station KMOV and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Libertarian Wes Upchurch, of Columbia, and Constitution Party member Denise Neely, of Cedar Hill, also are running.
The secretary of state is primarily charged with overseeing elections, but also regulates securities, handles business registration, publishes state regulations, maintains official documents and manages the state library and archives.
Hubbard and Carnahan have each focused heavily on the election part of the job — about which they agree on little.
Hubbard opposes letting voters mail in ballots and supports current state laws that only allow people to vote absentee if they can show certain reasons for not being able to make it to the polls on Election Day. He also supports legislation that would require voters to show government-issued photo identification to cast a ballot.
“We must make sure that there is not fraud happening,” Hubbard said. “That is the key. So it’s my position that we do need a voter ID, but we need to take steps to make sure no Missourian is disenfranchised.”
He also calls for requiring college students to serve as poll workers at least once to graduate.
Carnahan supports efforts to crack down on voter fraud but thinks Missourians should be allowed to vote by mail or cast absentee ballots without having to show an inability to make it to the polls on Election Day. Carnahan opposes requiring voters to show a government-issued photo ID to be allowed to vote.
“We need to be thinking about how to make it more convenient to vote,” she said.
Besides election-related issues, Hubbard said he would look to help small businesses by creating a link on the secretary of state’s Web site to a list of local merchants. And he would make it a priority for the state library to teach students about American history.
“We have a situation in our country where a lot of our high school students don’t have a grasp of American history,” he said.
Carnahan said her office has been aggressive in going after securities fraud and has worked to make state historical documents such as property records and Civil War muster sheets more accessible.
Earlier this year, Carnahan’s office agreed to an $8.5 billion settlement with Wachovia Corp. The North Carolina-based company agreed to buy back billions in auction-rate securities throughout the nation and pay a $50 million fine among all 50 states.