Two GOP members plan to seek nomination

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

At least two Republicans will publicly compete for their party's nomination to run in the special legislative election Feb. 5.

Harry Rediger, a retired manager of J.C. Penney Co.'s Cape Girardeau store, and Wayne Wallingford, a retired Air Force officer and executive with McDonald's of Southeast Missouri, said Monday that they will pursue the GOP slot on the ballot. Two other potential candidates have expressed an interest, said Holly Lintner, chairwoman of the committee that will make the nomination. Lintner declined to name those potential candidates.

Both men said they will emphasize honesty, maturity and experience as they pursue the nomination. The contest for the seat opened with the resignation of Nathan Cooper, a Republican, following his guilty plea to two federal felony counts of immigration fraud.

Cooper admitted setting up dummy companies and illegally purchasing visa approvals to provide trucking companies with foreign drivers.

Rediger and Wallingford have been quietly contacting members of the 158th Legislative District Republican Committee. Both said they are asking for support from committee members in advance of the Sept. 20 meeting where a nominee will be chosen.

The GOP nominee will join Democratic nominee Mike Keefe, former Cape Girardeau postmaster, and George Webster, the Libertarian Party's choice, on the ballot.

Wallingford and Rediger's names surfaced in interviews with Republican committee members following the announcement by Central High School assistant principal Pete Frazier that he would not run. Frazier, who lost the 2004 primary to Cooper, cited his commitment to his job and poor timing of the election in his decision.

"For me it was the obligation, the commitment I had already made to the school and my job" that spurred the decision, Frazier said in an interview. "The timing played a factor into it as much as everything."

Frazier didn't rule out a bid for public office in the future, and Lintner said she considered him a "strong candidate" for whatever post he pursued. Frazier is treasurer of the Cape Girardeau County Republican Central Committee, but that did not give him an inside track to the nomination, Lintner said.

"He would have had to work through the process just like everybody else," she said.

Cape Girardeau County Collector Diane Diebold, who represents Hanover precinct on the county committee, said both Rediger and Wallingford had asked for support. She is undecided, she said.

"I haven't had a chance to talk to either one extensively," she said.

Rediger, a Nebraska native, has lived in Cape Girardeau for 30 years. He held a seat on the Cape Girardeau Board of Education in the 1990s, his only political experience.

Rediger said he has spoken with most, but not all of the 19 members of the nominating committee. He plans a formal announcement later this week, he said. "I just feel the time is right, that I have made a decision and I am going to go ahead and go for it."

Wallingford is a native of Geneva, Ill. He moved to Cape Girardeau most recently in October 2004. He previously lived in Cape Girardeau from 1985 to 1989 when he commanded the Air Force ROTC detachment at Southeast Missouri State University. He was also a professor of aerospace science.

Wallingford flew more than 300 combat missions in Vietnam as the electronics warfare officer on a B-52. Following his military career, he went to work for PepsiCo as a manager of multiple Taco Bell restaurants and retired from the company as leader of a 16-state training department.

He returned to Cape Girar-deau to work for his son-in-law Shannon Davis, owner of 11 McDonald's restaurants in the region.

"I have a strong proven background in leadership and problem solving and working with people," Wallingford said.

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