Cooper resigns; former postmaster mulls campaign

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Read Nathan Cooper's resignation letter

Read the affidavit by special agent Tyson Imming

Former Cape Girardeau postmaster Mike Keefe said today that he will look closely at running for state Rep. Nathan Cooper's Missouri House seat as a Democrat.

Cooper, who pleaded guilty Thursday in St. Louis to two federal felony charges of immigration fraud, resigned his post effective at 5 p.m. today. Cooper sent a one-sentence resignation letter to Gov. Matt Blunt, who on Friday called for Cooper to step down. Cooper had announced his intention to resign following his guilty plea but did not set a timeline until Monday, when he said he would act today.

In a telephone interview, Keefe said he's weighing the race but hasn't made any firm decision. Keefe ran the Cape Girardeau post office from 1986 until his retirement earlier this year. He described himself as a fiscal conservative and social liberal, which he said makes him more comfortable in the Democratic Party.

"All the time I worked for the post office, I felt I shouldn't declare myself as a Republican or Democrat," Keefe said.

Keefe grew up in Iowa, moving to Missouri after achieving the post of director of customer service for Iowa in the early 1980s. After he became postmaster in Cape Girardeau in 1986, he said, "I fell in love with Cape Girardeau and the area. Now the kids are gone and it is just me and my wife."

Cooper announced Monday that he would resign today from the legislative post he has held since January 2005. On Thursday in St. Louis, Cooper pleaded guilty to two federal felony counts of immigration fraud. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 19, with Cooper facing up to 15 years in prison but likely, under federal sentencing guidelines, to receive a sentence of 30 to 37 months.

If he runs and wins, Keefe would be the first Democrat elected to the Missouri House from Cape Girardeau since 1980. The only other person to say they are considering the race is Victor Gunn, a Republican county committeeman and treasurer of Cooper's campaigns.

Keefe said experience with the post office would be an asset in the legislature. "I have managed a lot of people over time, and a lot of it you have to learn to work with unions and work with a lot of individuals," he said. "That is the same way when you have to work with politicians, and understand there is give-and-take in every situation."

The pros and cons of a race, Keefe said, would have to be weighed carefully before he could make a decision. "I won't do anything haphazard. I would want to win and I would want to represent the community the way it should be represented. I have to decide if I want to spend the time and effort."

For updates, check back at www.semissourian.com or read Wednesday's Southeast Missourian.

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