Party spokesmen give behind the scenes look
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Party spokesmen give behind the scenes look

Date: September 27, 2006
By: Lucie Wolken
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - As legislative hopefuls across the state push their individual goals as candidates, political parties work behind the scenes to broaden those goals into messages they hope will resonate with Missourians.  As each day brings closer Nov. 7, the question is, which party's tactic will produce success?

Is it going to be the Democrat's "Had enough?  Vote Democrat" or the Republican's "Promises Republicans made, Republicans kept"?

The phrase-debate is personified by the chief spokesmen for the two parties -- Republican Paul Sloca and Democrat Jack Cardetti.

The two men are perhaps as different as their two parties themselves.  Sloca, the elder of the two, was born in New York state and spent his childhood in Toronto.  He accepted the position of Republican Party spokesperson in Sept. 2003, after serving as a working journalist, finishing as an AP Missouri statehouse reporter before entering into politics. 

Missouri native Cardetti, an MU graduate, entered into politics directly following his graduation in 2000.  He first served as press secretary to former Gov. Bob Holden's and then for Attorney General Jay Nixon before accepting the position as Democratic Party spokesperson directly from Claire McCaskill in August of 2004. 

Both men are husbands and fathers.  Cardetti's family resides in Columbia, while Sloca resides in Jefferson City.   

According to Cardetti, the plan of attack for Democrats this election focuses around what he calls "a desire for change." 

"Its a simple message, but an effective message.  Because of how badly the Republicans have really managed the state and federal government." 

Despite the Democratic Party campaign capitalizing on what Cardetti argues is widespread political discontent among Missourians, Sloca contends that Republicans will have the edge in November because of their assertive approach. 

"In politics, reacting is not what you want to do, you want to set the agenda.  My goal everyday is to be proactive," said Sloca.  "We are going to continue to be the aggressor."

While they may not agree on most issues, both Cardetti and Sloca point out that the most important campaign work is done at what Sloca calls the "grassroots level."

"Campaigns work a lot better at the local level, while that is certainly an organizational chore, it works better when neighbors are contacting neighbors," Cardetti said.

These "grassroots" efforts are spearheaded by local volunteers in districts all across Missouri.  The Democratic Party has 23 different offices while the Republican Party has committees in every district in the state, according to both spokesmen. 

Cardetti acknowledges the success the Republican Party has enjoyed in recent elections.  This year, they are mounting a statewide effort, rather than targeting selected areas of the state.

"We are not taking any voter for granted this year, and we are campaigning in every corner of the state and thats been a real successful so far and we hope that gets us to victory on election day," said Cardetti. 

With voters support at a premium, one issue that has the attention of both parties is voter identification, which could have an affect on numbers at the polls in November.  Judge Richard Callahan deemed legislation requiring voters to provide identification at the polls unconstitutional this month, but the final word will not be heard until Oct. 4 when the state Supreme Court will make it's ruling .  If the ruling is overturned, voters will have to identify themselves before casting their votes.

According to Cardetti, the appeal to the Supreme court to overturn Callahan's ruling is an effort on the part of the Republican Party to keep voters from the polls, more specifically Democratic voters.  Sloca offers another explanation.

"It does not make sense why Democrats would block it.  Except, to think that perhaps they have used the system to their advantage in the past...Do the Democrats have to cheat to win?  That is the big question here," said Sloca.  "The more [Democrats] use the courts to try to block this, the more one has to surmise that they don't want free and fair elections."

While candidates run their own campaigns, the state parties are most concerned with providing support by rallying the constituency behind them. 

"We will definitely call Democratic candidates on the carpet on certain issues, and try and get the media interested in those issues," said Sloca.  "The party is here to support the candidates and we can do certain things as far as challenging other candidates a little more hard-hitting than a candidate will."  

The main headquarters for the parties are in Jefferson City, both within walking distance of the Capital -- the building both are working so diligently to dominate for the next two years.  Both spokesmen agree that in order to have success of Nov. 7, their most important effort is to reach Missourians all across the state. 

"We are in constant contact with our county chair people from around the state, with volunteers and with organizations," said Cardetti.  "Most of the work that is done is outside of these four walls."