JEFFERSON CITY - A rural southwest Missourian, relatively unknown to Columbia, has beaten Columbia's senior House member for one of the most powerful positions in state government.
Missouri House Democrats, meeting in a closed-door caucus Thursday, chose Rep. Jim Kreider, D-Nixa, for the Speaker of the House.
Kreider, Rep. Tim Harlan, D-Columbia, and Rep. Denny Merideth, D-Caruthersville, all attempted to secure the party nomination for Speaker Thursday. Kreider received 63 votes while Harlan garnered 13 votes in the caucus.
In January, the full House meets to officially elect the Speaker by a majority vote, but since the Democrats are now in the majority in the House, the caucus nomination virtually secured the position for the former Speaker Pro Tem.
With several months to go before the 2001 legislative session, Kreider described the House caucus as "a majority that is united, wants to work as a team and that wants to fulfill the issues we ran on as Democrats this year in this election."
Kreider also said he hopes the legislature can work past the partisan bickering that dominated the last legislative session.
"It's a different day and I'm extending my hand right now" to the Republicans, he added. "I hope they will grab it and I hope we can sit down and talk."
The Democratics also nominated Rep. Mark Abel, D-Festus, as Speaker Pro Tem. Elected by the House Democrats was Rep. Wayne Crump, D-Potosi, for another term as their floor leader, and Rep. Jim Foley, D-St. Louis County, as the assistant Democratic floor leader. Rep. Betty Thompson, D-St. Louis County, was nominated as Majority Whip and Rep. Ted Farnen, D-Mexico, was chosen as the Democratic Caucus Chair.
With no black legislators or women in the top three leadership positions in the party, members of the Black Caucus expressed some concern about the lack of minorities in the top ranks.
"I'm always concerned about minorities moving along into leadership positons," said Rep. Louis Ford, D-St. Louis. "I'm always hoping we can do better."
Ford added that he expects the new leadership to be responsive to minority concerns in the upcoming session. He said he has already gotten a committment from the leaders to appoint minorities to top committees and chairmanships.
"I want to see the newly elected leadership show leadership by making sure minorities are placed in good chairmanships and good committees," Ford said.
On the other hand, the Republican House caucus nominated a woman, Rep. Catherine Hanaway, R-Warson Woods, to the top position of Republican floor leader.
During the last legislative session, Hanaway made a name for herself during debates on how to spend tobacco settlement money and by sponsoring a bill that allowed Missourians to add their names to a no-call list restricting telemarketer phone solicitation.
Hanaway has also served as the executive director of the Missouri George W. Bush campaign for over a year.
Rep. Pat Naeger, R-Perryville, was chosen as Assistant Minority Floor Leader and Rep. Charles Shields, R-St. Joseph, was nominated as the Minority Whip. Rep. Annie Reinhart, R-Liberty, was picked for Republican Caucus Chair.