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Women Legislators Confident of Leadership Victory

January 04, 1996
By: EMILY GOODIN
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Women legislators expressed confidence Wednesday that black demands for a stronger leadership role in the House would not jeopardize chances for electing a woman to the highest legislative post in Missouri history.

Some black legislators suggested Wednesday that a black should be elected majority leader in return for black support of the Democratic candidate for speaker.

The apparent leader in the campaign for the post is Rep. Gracia Backer, D-New Bloomfield.

House Democrats had been scheduled to elect their floor leader in a caucus after the House session.

Those plans were abandoned when Democrats were unable to muster the votes needed to retain the speaker's job.

But several legislators dismissed suggestions the floor leader job - the second most powerful position in the House - would be used as a bargaining chip with the Black Caucus.

"I don't believe Gracia is going to be a sacrificial lamb," said Rep. Shelia Lumpe, D-St. Louis County.

"I'm never positive, absolutely positive, about anything, but I feel fairly confident."

Backer also remained upbeat.

"There's no disappointment," said Backer, who appears to be the front-runner for the majority leadership post. "The important thing is that the state government is running."

Backer said the election of a majority leader probably would be postponed until next week.

Backer said she was not aware of any demand by the Black Caucus for the majority leadership post she is seeking.

"I have not visited with any members of the Black Caucus," Backer said, citing her busy schedule as the reason why.

Last year's floor leader, Rep. Bob Ward, D-Bonne Terre, resigned last month citing health problems. Ward had suffered a stroke after open-heart surgery shortly before the 1995 session had begun.