Jacob touts Senate record in bid for lt. governor

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- During his two years as the ranking Democrat in the Missouri Senate, Minority Floor Leader Ken Jacob has often been a one-man roadblock stopping legislation sought by the chamber's Republican majority.

As lieutenant governor, Jacob, D-Columbia, said he would zealously stand up for the traditional rights of individual senators in the office's role as Senate president. To do that job effectively, Jacob said, takes someone with intricate knowledge of the chamber's procedures.

"It is critically important in the political environment we are in today," Jacob said. "At different times, our checks and balances require certain checks to check more to make sure there is a balance. That has certainly been the case for the last two years."

Jacob, a 22-year legislative veteran, is running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor against former Secretary of State Bekki Cook of Cape Girardeau in Tuesday's primary election.

Jacob's style can at times be combative and abrasive, and his long filibusters on a variety of issues have tested the patience of his colleagues. However, few doubt his sincerity.

At a recent Democratic rally in Kingdom City at which Jacob spoke, Randy Herring, a real estate appraiser from Fulton, said Jacob has done an excellent job of standing up to Republicans, making him a stronger choice than Cook.

"The legislature has gotten kind of crazy," Herring said. "They are so partisan. There is no give and take anymore."

As lieutenant governor, Jacob would be unable to use many of the tactics he successfully employed to thwart GOP initiatives. However, he intends to ensure the fairness that he believes has been lacking since the Republicans took control of the chamber in 2001.

"I do not intend to use any tools that do exist in order to achieve any partisan political objectives that I may have; I think that would be inappropriate," Jacob said. "But I'm going to make sure that the majority doesn't trample over the rights of the minority."

Wants to take on Kinder

Although Cook is his current opponent, Jacob is itching for a general election campaign against his longtime nemesis -- Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder of Cape Girardeau. Kinder is running against former state Rep. Patricia Secrest of Manchester for the Republican nomination as lieutenant governor.

Jacob sees Kinder as the personification of the erosion of Senate traditions in recent years.

During a contentious filibuster last spring on a Republican bill intended to limit civil lawsuits, Jacob asked Kinder if there was any way they could reach a compromise all sides could live with in order to avoid a promised gubernatorial veto.

"Peter's response was 'I seek no conciliation, only confrontation and your ultimate defeat,'" Jacob said.

Although floored by Kinder's response to his overtures, Jacob said he admired his foe's resolve. Kinder's quote is posted in each of Jacob's campaign offices.

Cook touts herself as someone who could defend Democratic principles without employing a stick-in-the-eye approach. Jacob questions whether Cook, who has never served in the legislature, has the experience for the job. In particular, he cites Cook's infamous handling of Bob Griffin's re-election as House speaker in 1995.

Every two years, the secretary of state temporarily presides over the House while it picks a speaker. Cook, who had taken office just weeks earlier, found herself embroiled in a effort to topple Griffin, who had held the post longer than anyone in history. A procedure that was supposed to take minutes lasted until the next day as Cook left the voting board open while Griffin rallied supporters.

"It was a matter of her being put into a position where she didn't really know what to do," Jacob said. "What happened as a result was a very powerful strongman intervened into his own election and was able to change the outcome."

Term-limited in the Senate, Jacob hadn't intended to run for higher office this year. When incumbent Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell opted not to seek re-election, he recruited Jacob to be his successor.

Candidates for lieutenant governor often view the office as a springboard for the top job. However, Jacob doesn't foresee ever running for governor.

"I don't think that I would ever have the desire to be governor," Jacob said. "But if I had the responsibility to do the job, I feel absolutely confident I could do it."

mpowers@semissourian.com

(573) 635-4608

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