The Madison County Record Oct. 16, 2014, 3:33pm

Imagine going to a supermarket where none of the product packages have labels. Cardboard boxes, tin cans, and plastic liter bottles are all blank.

You might get a general idea of what is on each aisle by the size and shape of containers, but you would have no way of knowing precisely what the contents are.

A box of a certain size might very well be laundry detergent and another breakfast cereal, but how to tell if the former is Tide or Cascade, and the latter Lucky Charms or Cap'n Crunch?

A row of 15-oz. cans on a shelf are likely to contain vegetables, but are they green peas, pinto beans, or succotash?

Now imagine if we didn't have political parties. Picking a candidate to support and vote for would be like going to that crazy grocery with unmarked packages.

Some may insist that there's not a dime's worth of difference between Democrats and Republicans, and it's certainly true that some party members fly under false flags, but, generally speaking, the D and the R behind candidates' names provide fairly reliable insight into where they stand on most issues.

Then, there are other labels that candidates adopt – or have placed upon them – that help define them further.

For instance, in the Metro East, some candidates display an affinity for the asbestos bar and are labeled accordingly.

More than half of the money Marleen Suarez (D) has raised in her campaign for Madison County Treasurer has come directly or indirectly from the asbestos bar.

Roughly half of the money Associate Judge Clarence Harrison (D) has amassed in his quest for the Madison County circuit seat vacated by former judge Ann Callis has come from asbestos attorneys.

Callis (D), currently a candidate for the 13th Congressional District, is one of the biggest recipients of asbestos bar largesse.

Suarez, Harrison, and Callis may not identify themselves as candidates of the asbestos bar, but that is what they are.

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