Sunday, August 03, 2008

"Just Look At My Experience"

Searches for Edge in Unpredictable 3-way Democratic Primary for Attorney General

If Margaret Donnelly is reluctant to distinguish herself from her Democratic rivals for Attorney General, her top Springfield surrogate is not.

"Jeff was our leader and he did a great job. But when it came down to the budget and key legislative decisions and battles, Margaret was the one," chimes in Rep. Sara Lampe, referring to Rep. Jeff Harris, one of Donnelly's opponents in Tuesday's primary.

When the conversation in the #138th district living room turns to Senator Chris Koster's prosecutorial experience, Lampe is quick to discount it. "I don't think that's relevant," she says.

We are sitting in the heart of Lampe's central Springfield district, in the living room of Joyce and Bill Pyle, both longtime (now retired) Springfield educators. On a rare, and final swing through the Queen City, Donnelly is in the midst of explaining why her experience sets her apart from Harris and Koster.

"Look at what we've done in our lives, and ask who you would want in that office," Donnelly says, replying to my inquiry about how to crystallize the differences between the candidates.

She refutes the assumption that she might have an advantage in this primary just because she's a woman. "It's not just that I'm a woman. The issue is, it goes back to the profile. People care about education, they care about child advocacy, they care about mental health. That's my advantage over my two opponents," Donnelly says.

Donnelly has been a social worker, a lawyer and a school board member. But she seems most proud of her work on special boards and committees representing women and children in difficult situations. She was regularly appointed by judges to represent children in abuse cases and thorny domestic disputes.

Her trump card with voters, and women especially, is that real human experience.

But Lampe makes sure it's known Donnelly is no shrinking violet. She's competent and damn tough when she has to be. "It takes three guys to take her on from the other side," Lampe says, describing Donnelly on the House floor. "When she's asking the questions and they stumble, she catches them every time . . . I sooo wanna be like you," Lampe gushes.

Still, both Koster and Harris tout experience: Koster as a prosecutor and Harris as an assistant under Attorney General Jay Nixon.

"It's not to discount it, but in the 16 years Jay has been there, he's tried one case as Attorney General," she says, referring to Koster. "That's not the job. We all know that work is essentially handled at the local level."

"Jeff worked as an assistant at a business firm. His clients were corporate, not individuals. Then he worked just for a year as an assistant Attorney General. Just look at my experience," she offers once again. "All these obscure areas of the office that people don't know about. I've been through it. You have to know the agencies you represent. That's what I've done on budget, gotten into the policies and gotten to know the people at Corrections, Social Services . . ."

The lack of time these candidates have spent down here indicates that the Ozarks is no battleground in this race. Still, Donnelly is making the rounds, stopping at the Ozark Empire Fair, knocking on doors, sending out mailers and making calls. No robo calls. Just personal calls, she says. Her daughter has flown in from Chicago this weekend to help. And she thinks she's the only one in doing mailers in this area.

"Many people haven't distinguished the players," Donnelly says, referring to the undecideds left. "But when you are in front of them, you can make a difference."

Going door-to-door is hard in a Democratic primary in Springfield. It's not like there are rows and rows of houses of identifiable Democratic voters. "People are so spread out. You knock on one door, then you may have to go a few blocks," Donnelly explains.

Still, in a statewide primary that many politicos can't seem to get their hands around, even a few door-knocks are worthwhile.

"I think since no one is (based) here in Springfield, I think the three of us will divide it fairly evenly," she says. "I take my other two opponents very seriously, but I think we've done everything we can to do this right."


Tony said...

Donnelly is third in the primary. She is a great candidate but she can't win. A vote for Donnelly is a vote for Koster. Do not throw away your vote. Jeff Harris is the best candidate and he can beat Chris Koster but he needs your help. He is the only candidate to work in the office and he is the only candidate to be a democratic leader. Donnelly has two endorsements outside of St. Louis and Kansas City, Jeff has morethan fifty including Roger Wilson and Joe Maxwell.

Clark said...

Donnelly can win with your help. Harris is trailing in endorsements, money, and votes, and cannot hope to overtake Koster.

Margaret Donnelly is the most experienced and qualified candidate of any party for Attorney General. She's dealt with extremely difficult cases for over twenty years as family attorney, fighting on behalf of abused children and spouses. In her own community, she helped establish the first shelter for battered women and children, and she's been school board president and on the board of several local government and regional associations.

And as legislator, Margaret Donnelly has championed consumer safety, senior protection, protecting our environment, restoring health insurance funding, and the list goes on.

There's only one choice on Tuesday - Margaret Donnelly!