© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Zweifel's re-election launch is likely the first of many in coming months

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 16, 2011 - State Treasurer Clint Zweifel, who officially declared his re-election plans on Monday, is likely the first of a series of statewide officials and wannabes this summer to announce their 2012 campaign bids.

The only question is how many follow Zweifel's decision to declare his intentions via the web, and which ones choose the traditional -- and expensive -- route of conducting a multi-day marathon of announcements around the state.

Zweifel's Youtube video emphasizes his assessment of his first term as one of saving taxpayer dollars, using state investment programs to promote jobs and improving the state's college-savings program.

Zweifel, a Democrat, explained, "A web-based announcement allows you to do this quickly, efficiently and at no cost."

The advantage for supporters, he added, is that "everybody gets to see it at the same time."

Still, an online launch has yet to become the norm in Missouri politics. 

In February 2009, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan opted for the then-new approach of declaring her 2010 Democratic candidacy for the U.S. Senate via a Youtube video.

A few weeks later, the Republican who eventually won the Senate contest -- then-U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt -- chose Missouri's longstanding tradition of traveling around the state in a blitz of announcement appearances.

This time -- thanks to photos already circulating of his campaign bus -- there's already speculation that state House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, plans to opt for the traditional route when he declares his expected candidacy later this summer for lieutenant governor in 2012.

Fellow Republican Todd Akin, R-Wildwood, also chose tradition last month when he launched his bid for the U.S. Senate with a multi-day series of campaign events around the state. Republican rival Sarah Steelman, a former state treasurer, chose the internet to announce her intentions.

The Democratic incumbent, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, has made clear that she's running for re-election, but she has yet to say if she will hold any sort of announcement event -- and how she might conduct it. McCaskill has confirmed, though, that she is looking for a campaign bus, her preferred mode of travel when she first ran for the Senate in 2006.

Mode Can Send Message

With the traditional approach, the route and mode of travel often are aimed at sending a message. Blunt, for example, chose to hold his first announcement at Harris-Stowe State University to underscore his pledge to campaign frequently in the St. Louis area -- including Democratic turf -- even though he hailed from southwest Missouri.

(Blunt's announcement blitz was conducted by airplane. McCaskill is unlikely to follow suit, as a result of the controversy earlier this year over her use of an aircraft co-owned by her family and the unpaid taxes on it.)

Akin and his campaign viewed last month's statewide announcement trek, conducted via various vehicles, as a chance to introduce him to many outstate voters who had never heard of him, much less his views. He also showcased some of his lesser-known talents, such as playing the guitar.

Zweifel says that a web announcement isn't a substitute for statewide travel. "Technology should enhance everything you're doing,'' he said. "It's a fun complement'' to other campaign activities.

Zweifel, noted, for example, that he already has held several campaign events around the state; they just weren't linked to his official re-election announcement.

In fact, he acknowledged that one purpose of  Monday's online video is to generate buzz and enthusiasm as it circulates on the web in the days leading up to his official campaign kickoff event -- which will be real, not virtual.

That kickoff is slated for next Wednesday in Forest Park, where Zweifel's campaign hopes to attract a large and broad array of public supporters. At that event, Zweifel expects to highlight some of his achievements.

Among other things, he cites the low-interest loans to small businesses that Zweifel says has affected 11,000 jobs and Missouri's continued AAA bond rating.

"I've been able to make investments in every county of this state,'' Zweifel said. "I'm proud of my record, and I'm excited about it."

Lager Mulling over Rematch

So far, Zweifel has no announced Republican opponent. The hottest speculation focuses on a potential rematch with his 2008 rival, state Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah. 

"It's fair to say, I haven't ruled it out," Lager said in a telephone interview. "I'm continuing to work through the process...I still believe that the fiscal realities of this state are more important than ever."

But Lager added that he was pre-occupied at the moment with non-political matters, notably the flooding besieging parts of his district, and the second child that he and his wife are expecting in late July.

Activists in both parties acknowledge that next year's state treasurer's contest will likely be overshadowed -- as usual -- by the bigger contests at the top of the ticket, including president of the United States, governor and the U.S. senator.

That's another reason Zweifel opted to schedule his announcement early before attention gets diverted to the crowd of other candidates for other offices, several of them higher profile.

Zweifel said that his campaign kickoff is being held in St. Louis to highlight his personal and political ties to the area.

Zweifel was a state representative for six years, representing parts of north St. Louis County, before running for state treasurer. He subsequently moved his family to Columbia, Mo., so that he can spend time with his wife and two daughters while working in Jefferson City.

Even the web has its limits.

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.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.