Republican caucus to decide leadership
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Republican caucus to decide leadership

Date: September 10, 2007
By: Lucie Wolken
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Democrats charge Republicans are arrogant in voting in a speaker elect Wednesday for the 2009 legislative session -- more than a year away.   

House Republican members plan to meet Wednesday night to elect who they hope will be voted in as the Speaker of the House following the Nov. 2008 elections.   

The position will not be voted on by the General Assembly until January 2009.

The two leadership candidates are Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, who led the fight in the House to provide tax breaks for businesses and developers and Rep. Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, House Budget Committee Chair. 

Jack Cardetti, spokesman for the Missouri Democratic Party, said that Republicans are "putting the cart before the horse" in voting in a Speaker elect in the caucus.

"House Republicans lost a number of seats last election cycle and if they lose a number more this next cycle, they will be actually be in the minority and not the majority anymore.  This election could be a little presumptive," Cardetti said. 

"Trying to call someone speaker elect looks beyond the next election and really seems arrogant in a way to say that they will keep control of the House let alone have the same people voting for the same man for speaker," Rep. Paul Levota, incoming Democratic floor leader, said.   

But Republicans say that the goal of the caucus is to maintain a cohesiveness to their party that will help make a smooth transition of power.

"It is a good idea in terms of planning and continuity," Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia said.

Cardetti says that the process is going to shut out freshman Republicans who are elected in November of 2008 from having a say in their party's leadership. 

Robb says that he does not anticipate "freshman" Republicans taking an issue with the process.

"They don't even know anyone in the legislature very well, unless it is pure happenstance," Robb said. 

The selection of a Speaker elect before a majority has been voted in is unusual.  In order for the GOP Speaker elect to voted in, Republicans must maintain their 11-seat majority.       

"Speaker Jetton got the idea from other states," Aaron Willard, Director of House Communications, said.  

"Florida is one in particular, where they chose a speaker elect which is supposed to help with transition," Willard said.  "If they do it a year ahead, then there is less turmoil within the caucus."

Willard says that regardless of the outcome of Wednesday's caucus, nothing will be determined until 2009 in front of the entire house.

"Speaker Jetton is not going to be handing over the reigns to whoever wins on Wednesday," Willard said.   

In response to Democratic criticism, Robb said the Democratic caucus has the same option of voting in a Speaker elect.

But Levota says that Democrats are more focused on winning the majority.

"Elections matter and that is what we are focused on, communicating our message to the people of Missouri, not looking past to who will be in power," Levota said.

Cardetti is confident that Democrats have a chance to regain the majority.

"Regardless of what happens," Cardetti said, "We think that either Rep. Richard or Icet could make a very fine minority leader."

The Republican caucus is scheduled to meet tomorrow to select the GOP majority leader as well as nominate their choice for the the speaker pro temp to be voted on Wednesday for the upcoming 2008 legislative session.  Both positions are currently vacant.