"It is not a rumor. It is true," Copenhaver told the Heart Beat.
he first public inkling something happened during the primary campaign that troubled Mrs. Copenhaver came when she told the Columbia Daily Tribune that she would not endorse Mr. Wright
after he won the August election -- an unusual, if not unprecedented, decision.
At the time, she declined to specify what she characterized as "an ethical issue." But when the Heart Beat contacted her last week, Copenhaver said the payoff offer -- which far exceeded the rumored monetary figure -- is what troubled her.
"Mary Still called me and made the 'offer,' which wasn't for $10,000. It was to pay for my ENTIRE campaign
if I would run in a different district," she said, emphasizing the point in an email with all caps. "House District Six was the suggestion, since it starts two blocks north of my house."
Copenhaver's memory of the phone call is detailed. It came about a week before election filing ended on March 27, she remembers. "Mary called from the House floor
and I had to ask her to repeat herself because it was so noisy," Copenhaver explained. "My husband was home at the time."
Though Rep. Still admits phoning Copenhaver to talk about Wright, she denies making any payment offers or calling from the Capitol. "I called Nancy from my home early on, when I learned that John was running," she told the Heart Beat. "I told her what I knew about him, in particular that he would have support from the education community. I knew that Nancy, too, was counting on that support."
Copenhaver is a retired teacher; Wright recently started a public-private Montessori school at Grant Elementary in Columbia.
The payoff charges are explosive enough that had Copenhaver discussed them publicly during her primary race with Mr. Wright, they would have set off a "he said, she said" battle that could have alienated voters and made issue-based campaigning virtually impossible.
Although she made "no secret of it -- I've told numerous people," Copenhaver decided not to go negative.
Even after a controversy about Wright's fundraising figures -- over $280,000 as of last count -- erupted after he decried big-bucks political contributions at a public forum, Copenhaver limited her public comments about it.
"I felt honor-bound to continue to do my best to run a clean campaign and work as hard as I could," she explained.
Though Rep. Still would neither confirm nor deny if she was aware of the rumors, she did say Copenhaver never expressed concern about John Wright. "Nancy has been to my house since our conversation," Still told the Heart Beat.
Although the alleged scheme was a clear signal powerful members of her own party were lined up against her, Copenhaver decided to hang in -- and hang on. "There were a lot of people who spent untold hours helping me, and I couldn't let them down," she said. "There was no amount of money that would have been too much to buy this election."
Wright did not answer questions or a request for comment.
In the November general election, he faces Republican Mitch Richards, while Rep. Still faces Republican Senator Kurt Schaefer in the 19th District State Senate race.
[Ed. Note: This story marks the first time this publication has had any contact with Nancy Copenhaver. Mrs. Copenhaver did not volunteer the information; we sought her out to confirm or deny the persistent rumors.]
-- Mike Martin for the Columbia Heart Beat