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Corrigan launching major TV ad campaign, despite lack of serious GOP opposition

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 23, 2010 - Lawyer Bill Corrigan, a Republican candidate for St. Louis County executive, may be trying avoid an "Al Hanson'' moment.

Beginning today, Corrigan is launching a $90,000-plus TV ad campaign for the Aug. 3 primary.

Political operatives report that Corrigan -- who is hoping to oust St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley in November -- has purchased significant blocks of ad time on area cable outlets and broadcast stations.

Corrigan's campaign declined comment Thursday but issued a statement this morning confirming the basics:

"We are incredibly excited to be entering the market in such a big way," Corrigan said. "The strong financial support we have received for this campaign has allowed us to be very strategic in our approach to educate and motivate voters to get involved and help our county change the direction that we have been heading under the failed Dooley administration. This first ad highlights Bill’s vision for the county. This advertising will allow us to take our message directly to the region’s active voters and lays the foundation for a fall contest that will highlight the choice voters have before them." 

The campaign for Dooley jumped the gun late Thursday, issuing a cryptic statement that said, in part, that an unnamed GOP rival "now seriously worried about the outcome in a lackluster Republican primary, will begin airing TV ads ... As you watch them, remember that each one equals a few thousand dollars that will not be spent vilifying Charlie and Democrats in the November general election."

Corrigan's first TV spot is indeed borrowing some footage from this video that his campaign recently posted on his Facebook page. The first 30 seconds look a lot like a TV campaign spot.

This morning, Corrigan's campaign said the video also can be viewed on his campaign website.

On the surface, Corrigan's hefty spending would seem superfluous, since he faces an unknown Republican challenger -- Nick Farace of Florissant -- who has done little or no campaigning.

But Corrigan's campaign may be thinking of someone else:

Al Hanson.

In August 2002, Hanson was the surprise victor in the GOP statewide primary for state auditor -- defeating the party's establishment candidate, St. Louis lawyer Jay Kanzler.

Kanzler had all the big-name endorsements, including then-Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond and former Sen. John C. Danforth.

Hanson was unknown and had done virtually no campaigning. But he handily defeated Kanzler by a ratio of almost 2 to 1.

Hanson also turned out to be a convicted felon, a fact that came out only after the primary.

Within days of the primary, Hanson was disavowed by his party and the Republican candidate at the top of the ticket -- U.S. Senate candidate Jim Talent.

Then-state Auditor Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, had no trouble getting re-elected.

Although Talent still won the Senate seat that fall (ousting then-Sen. Jean Carnahan, D-Mo.), many Republican leaders and activists viewed Hanson as a political accident that didn't have to happen (and cleared the way for McCaskill's continued political rise).

Kanzler, some said at the time, should have been more visible.

Assuming Corrigan spends all that ad time he's apparently purchased, no one will make such a complaint about him by the time votes on counted on the night of Aug. 3.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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