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Democrats Mend Fences; Blunt Rallies GOP Supporters

POSTED: 2:41 pm CDT August 4, 2004
UPDATED: 3:12 pm CDT August 4, 2004

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Republicans and Democrats are gearing up for a fight for the governor's mansion in November.

Democrats are busy trying to mend party fences after Tuesday's primary.

State Auditor Claire McCaskill stunned many by beating incumbent Gov. Bob Holden in Tuesday's gubernatorial primary. They both met privately Wednesday morning in Jefferson City to talk about bringing the party together after a tough primary campaign.

KMBC's Kris Ketz reported that party unity is now the goal.

"I want this party unified. I want to be victorious in November. I want to be able to turn over the reins of this state to another Democrat," Holden said.

"This really is about the things that we believe in. It's not about the personalities, it's not about the campaign, it's about the things we believe in and we share those beliefs," McCaskill said.

After the meeting, the state party's executive director was replaced with a member of McCaskill's staff in the state auditor's office.

Blunt Rallies GOP Supporters

Republican candidate for governor Matt Blunt rallied about 100 supporters Wednesday at his campaign headquarters in suburban St. Louis, pledging to encourage small business and improve roads and education.

Standing in a room virtually wallpapered with "Matt Blunt for Governor" signs, Blunt, the secretary of state, sought to portray himself as someone who can work with legislators of both parties and who could offer a stark contrast with previous Democratic leadership.

Blunt, 33, said he would push for reforms that would reduce frivolous lawsuits and reform workers' compensation programs to ease the burden on small business owners.

Like Democratic candidate Claire McCaskill, who defeated incumbent Gov. Bob Holden in Tuesday's primary election, Blunt said he would also end the diversion of tax dollars intended for transportation. And, he pledged to make the transportation director a governor-appointed position. He also promised to increase government accountability for the condition of the state's roads.

"If I become governor, I want Missourians to look around at those roads and highways and bridges the day I assume office. If they don't see improvement (afterwards), they need to hold me accountable for that," Blunt told reporters after the rally.

Blunt tried to distance himself from introductory remarks made by Republican party chair Ann Wagner, saying he would run a campaign based on issues rather than negative attacks.

Wagner had referred to the Democratic primary as a "giant mudpit" from which the most "slippery" candidate emerged. Wagner called winner Claire McCaskill an ineffective auditor "on the wrong side of Missouri values."

McCaskill spokesman Glenn Campbell would not comment on Wagner's remarks, but said that McCaskill was busy trying to connect with Missourians from all walks of life.

"Primaries are not bad things. We feel like we've been able to hit the ground running at this point," Campbell said, adding that McCaskill had garnered votes from outstate areas which were not traditional Democratic strongholds.

Blunt gained 88 percent of the Republican vote in Tuesday's primary, with 98 percent of precincts reporting, defeating five lesser-known opponents on the ticket.

Blunt is the son of Rep. Roy Blunt, a third-ranking house Republican who also served as Missouri's secretary of state before an unsuccessful bid for governor. Matt Blunt served in the Navy and briefly in the state House before winning his present office in 2000.

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