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Presidential primary movement gains steam

March 03, 1998
By: Margaret Murphy
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A Senate committee gave the thumbs up Monday to a bill being pushed by Secretary of State Bekki Cook to permanently change Missouri's presidential caucus system to a primary.

Set to coincide with local elections held in early April, the primary would be no threat to New Hampshire's prom-queen status as the first-in-the-nation primary, or Iowa's as first-in-the-nation caucus, both held in February. But the bill's sponsor said the move is a good one for Missouri.

"I think it's time," said Sen. Ronnie DePasco, D-Kansas City, chairman of the Senate Elections Committee and sponsor of the bill. "It will bring the media into Missouri and will give everyone the opportunity to cast a vote, not just the people who participate in the caucus."

Cook said the state needs to be responsive to the wishes of Missouri voters.

"The people of Missouri overwhelmingly want to have an individual say about their nominees for president," she said. She said a bonus of holding a primary that coincides with local elections would be higher voter turnout for those elections.

The committee voted 5-3 to pass the bill. Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia voted against it. He said he didn't have strong feelings about the bill.

"The one time we had this before I didn't like the way it worked," Jacob said. "I'd rather stay where we are."

Missouri last held a presidential primary in 1988, a move designed to benefit Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Hearings have been held on similar bills in the House, but no votes have been taken.