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Speaker position still up for grabs

November 08, 2000
By: Lauren Shepherd
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Three Democrats are now vying for the Speaker of the House seat and with one day left in the race, the position is still up for grabs.

Rep. Tim Harlan, D-Columbia, Rep. Jim Kreider, D-Nixa, and Rep. Danny Merideth, a former Independant turned Democrat this year from Caruthersville, are all seeking the party nomination for the position.

On Thursday, both parties will meet in caucus. The Democrats, with a nine-seat majority in the House currently, will nominate their choice for Speaker based on who gets the most votes in the party caucus. The entire House then votes in January to elect the party nominee. The caucus nomination generally guarentees the speakership.

"The numbers are close," Harlan said. "You have to be able to work with all the members of the Democratic Caucus" to garner the nomination for Speaker.

Harlan said he has worked with the caucus successfully before and said he is optimistic that he can do it again.

Harlan, known as an effective legislator who helped pass the state's patients bill of rights, has only served three terms in the House and chairs the critical issues committee. During the last legislative sesson, Harlan sponsored a bill to imposes penalties on HMOs for not paying their bills. The bill, though, did not pass.

Merideth, who publicly announced that he will seek the Speaker position at the end of the last legislative session, said he thinks he has "as good of a shot as anyone" in the race.

"Right now, it's totally up in the air", Merideth said. "We just need to come to a point where we all support the decision of the caucus."

Kreider, the former Speaker Pro Tem, was not available for comment.