- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2000

ST. LOUIS The late Gov. Mel Carnahan became the first deceased candidate to win a Senate seat last night as he clung to a slight lead over Republican Sen. John Ashcroft.

With 85 percent of the votes counted and several heavily Democratic precincts in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas left to count, Mr. Carnahan, who died in an Oct. 16 plane crash, held a 50 percent to 49 percent lead over Mr. Ashcroft. CNN and CBS called the race for Mr. Carnahan at 2 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Gov. Roger Wilson has said he will name Jean Carnahan to take her husband's place if he wins.

But those figures could be tainted by the vote in the city of St. Louis, where a last-minute partisan court battle threatened to put the state's election results in jeopardy.

About 6 p.m. Central Standard Time, a circuit judge ruled in favor of a Democratic Party effort to keep the polls in St. Louis open until 10 p.m., three hours later than the rest of the state's polls.

The Democrats argued that the city's election process had been slowed by long lines, faulty registration records and broken machines.

But two hours later, a three-judge appellate panel responded to a Republican challenge by overturning the ruling and ordering the immediate closing of the polls.

Republicans accused Democrats of trying to gain an unfair advantage by keeping the polls open in the predominantly Democratic city. Several political leaders called for an investigation into the incident, while others said it could taint or even void all statewide races.

"I expect there will be challenges to whatever the results may be," said St. Louis Mayor Clarence Harmon.

The controversy had both parties trading charges.

"The Democrats in this city are trying to steal this election," said Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, at the Republican victory party at the Marriott West. "If they steal this election, some people ought to go to prison."

Circuit Judge Evelyn M. Baker, who first ordered the polls opened, was nominated by Mr. Bond. Polling places in the rest of the state closed at the normal time of 7 p.m. CST.

Democrats had tried to extend the voting hours in several other cities, including Kansas City, but were rebuffed by judges. Polling places in the rest of the state closed at the normal time of 7 p.m.

"I don't know why the Republicans of Missouri are so scared to have registered voters vote," said state Attorney General Jay Nixon at the Democratic rally.

Some St. Louis voters reported waits of as long as five hours. Others complained that their names were not listed on the election rolls even though they were registered.

The voting irregularities diverted attention from the state's turbulent Senate race, which drew national attention after Mr. Carnahan, one of his sons and a campaign aide were killed in a small-plane crash as they traveled to a rally.

Far from ending the Senate race, however, Mr. Carnahan's death appeared to energize the campaign. Election officials predicted the highest voter turnout in 20 years in part because of the publicity surrounding his demise and the debate over how to replace him.

Mr. Carnahan's name remains on the ballot because Missouri law forbids changes to the ballot 30 days before an election.

"I would attribute it [the high turnout] partly to the tragedy, particularly for Democrats," said Martha Knopf of the University of Missouri at Kansas City's political science department. "Before, they were saying, 'I don't really need to vote.' Now they're saying, 'Hey, this man died as a public servant participating in the Democratic process.' "

Some voters yesterday demonstrated their loyalty to the late governor by wearing buttons saying, "Still with Mel."

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