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New leadership mostly young, lawyers

November 08, 2002
By: Robert Sandler
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - This week's nominations for House and Senate leadership have inspired at least one surprising result for next year: Almost all the top leadership nominees are young or lawyers or both.

Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate put forth slates led by white males, with one exception. House Republicans are rallying around Catherine Hanaway, nominating her to become the first female House speaker.

Hanaway, who turned 39 on Friday, grew up in Iowa but currently lives in the wealthy St. Louis suburb of Warson Woods.

First elected to the House in 1998, the state constitution allows her to run for only one more House term, meaning the longest she could serve as speaker is four years.

The speaker has control of assigning bills and lawmakers to committees and debate in the House chamber.

Hanaway has a husband and 4-year-old daughter and describes her leadership style as pragmatic.

While she has disagreed with Democratic Gov. Bob Holden over policy issues in the past, she said, they have a good personal relationship.

But with less than two months to prepare before legislative session begins in January, she knows she must work fast.

"This seven weeks is going to go by in the blink of an eye."

Another young lawmaker with little in the way of legislative experience is the House GOP's nomination for second-in-command.

The GOP nominated Rod Jetton, 35, of Marble Hill to become speaker pro tem though he is serving only his second term in the legislature. Jetton served as treasurer of the Republican freshman class last year.

The southeast Missouri district he represents now claims half of the state's GOP leaders. Jetton served in Somalia and Bosnia in the Marine Corps and remains a captain in the Marine Reserve.

A graduate of Southwest Baptist University, he claims membership in various groups, including the Christian Coalition and the National Rifle Association.

The speaker pro tem presides over debate in the House when the speaker is not in the chamber. Both Hanaway and Jetton were unopposed in seeking their party's nominations.

The other top member of the House Republicans' new leadership team is their nominee for majority floor leader, Jason Crowell.

Crowell, 30, was born and raised in Cape Girardeau and now represents much of the city. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University and the University of Missouri-Columbia law school.

He said he does not see the Republicans' election wins as a mandate to rule, but as an opportunity.

While Democrats and Republicans share many of the same goals, he said, success has always been just out of reach.

"We've all been talking about it, but we've never gotten it done."

The majority floor leader decides when bills are brought up for debate, if ever.

Leading the opposition in the House will be veteran Rep. Mark Abel, D-Festus.

Abel served three terms in the 1980s before losing a re-election bid in 1990. He was elected again in 1998 and has stayed ever since. He served as speaker pro tem during the last session, when Democrats were the majority party.

Abel, now an insurance salesman, said his experience over the years will be especially valuable this year when so many members are freshmen.

"They need someone who ... can lead the House and teach things to new members," he said.

Republicans have nominated Sen. Peter Kinder of Cape Girardeau to continue as president pro tem. Kinder became president pro tem when the GOP took control of the Senate last year.

But the rest of the Senate's leading members will be new to their positions. Republicans have nominated Sen. Mike Gibbons of St. Louis County to be majority floor leader.

Gibbons, 43, a married father of two, has practiced law since 1984. He was first elected to the House since 1992 where he rose to be assistant minority floor leader before being elected to the Senate in 2000.

He said Missourians won't see any "razzle-dazzle" from him as majority leader, and that his leadership style is straightforward.

"If I was a football team, I would be running up the middle on every play," Gibbons said. "I have strength and confidence in my convictions. They're not going to have questions about where I am or what I'm doing."

Completing the leadership teams is Columbia Sen. Ken Jacob, who Democrats have nominated to be minority floor leader.

Jacob graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with degrees in education and law, and was a member of the Missouri Bar from 1989 to 1995.

He served in the state House from 1982 until 1996, when he was elected to the Senate. He said he hopes the legislature will have a bipartisan spirit while he still fights to retain the Democratic Party's values.

"Its goal is to level the playing field so that anyone can compete," Jacob said of his party.

"I want to solve problems. That's the only reason I'm in this."

Each of these leaders must be approved by the chamber's full membership when the legislature convenes in January.

Making matters complicated for Democrats was Friday's revelation that the Legislative Black Caucus had walked out of the House Democrats' caucus when it met Thursday.

Based on leadership, Republicans clearly have two bases of power -- St. Louis and Cape Girardeau. Their entire leadership teams for both the House and Senate come from those two areas.

Democrats, on the other hand, find their leadership in more diverse places -- suburban/rural Jefferson County and the college town of Columbia.

With all the new blood flowing through leadership positions and Republicans controlling both the House and Senate, business around the Capitol is guaranteed to change. Exactly how it will change, however, remains to be seen.

Jason McLure and Amy Menefee contributed to this report.

Can run with or without box depending on space considerations:

Here are the nominees for leadership positions for the next legislative session. All positions must be approved by the rank and file in January.


Speaker... Catherine Hanaway, R-St. Louis County

Speaker Pro Tem... Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill

Majority Floor Leader...Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau

Minority Floor Leader... Mark Abel, D-Festus


President Pro Tem... Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau

Majority Floor Leader... Mike Gibbons, R-St. Louis County

Minority Floor Leader... Ken Jacob, D-Columbia