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Term Limits Leaves Top Leadership Spots Open

May 17, 2002
By: Robert Sandler
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Even though the next regular session of the legislature is seven months away, it's never too early to guess "what if."

Term limits will prevent 73 of the House's 163 representatives and 12 of the Senate's 34 members from returning in January. Included in those casualties are House Speaker Jim Kreider and Senate Majority Leader Bill Kenney. They occupy two of the most powerful leadership positions in the entire legislature.

Last year a panel of judges was forced to redraw the legislative boundaries after the legislature couldn't come to a consensus. Population shifts over the last decade have put enough people into solidly Republican areas that Republicans think they have a good shot of picking up seats.

House Democrats say if they retain the majority, the race for speaker will likely be between Festus Rep. Mark Abel, currently speaker pro tem, and St. Louis Rep. Russ Carnahan, son of former Gov. Mel Carnahan.

In the past, the speaker pro tem often would ascend to the speakership with muted opposition, but some members say Carnahan is a rising leader who deserves consideration.

Rep. Yvonne Wilson of Kansas City is planning to run for speaker pro tem if the Democrats retain the majority. If she wins that post, she would be the highest-ranked black woman in the history of the legislature.

Many Democrat lawmakers say Reps. Chuck Graham of Columbia and Bill Ransdall of Waynesville are expected to run for floor leader to replace the term-limited Wayne Crump of Potosi.

But Republicans say they have a good chance at taking over the House in this fall's elections.

"I think the chances are very good," said Rep. Catherine Hanaway, Republican minority leader of St. Louis County. "The population shifts in Missouri have been to Republican areas and the redistricting reflects that."

Democrats, however, are not conceding the election so quickly.

"We're (close) in more races, we've got better candidates," said Graham.

Of House Republicans, he said, "These guys have been chomping at the bit thinking they were going to win (the majority) and they didn't. Their secretaries were looking at our offices before the elections in 1998."

But House Democrats remained in power after that year's elections and after the 2000 elections as well.

If Republicans do win the majority, they are expecting to make Hanaway the speaker.

Rep. Rod Jetton of Marble Hill said he is the only Republican planning to run for speaker pro tem. But the position of floor leader, which decides the order in which bills are debated, is expected to be a race between Rep. Richard Byrd of St. Louis County and Rep. Jason Crowell of Cape Girardeau.

House Republicans say they want Hanaway to remain their leader even if they remain the minority party. But previous Minority Leader Delbert Scott of Lowry City was forced out of that position after he failed to make good on a pledge to deliver the House to Republican control.

On the Senate side, Republicans expect to stay in control. Peter Kinder of Cape Girardeau is currently the president pro tem, but he said Friday that he was unsure if he would seek to remain in that position.

Bill Kenney of Lee's Summit has now completed his maximum eight years in the Senate, so the position of Floor Leader will be up for grabs.

Sens. Mike Gibbons of St. Louis County and Chuck Gross of St. Charles said they are interested in the position. Other returning Republican senators John Cauthorn of Mexico and John Loudon of St. Louis County say they haven't yet decided whether to run.

Democrats in the Senate say they are lined up behind Minority Leader Ed Quick of Liberty.

Nearly every legislator considering running for leadership has said he or she will be campaigning hard through the summer and fall to help the party win seats.