Kinder, Secrest vying for GOP nod as lieutenant governor

Thursday, July 29, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Running a low-profile campaign against a well-funded and highly visible legislative leader, Patricia Secrest knows she faces an uphill battle to claim the Republican nomination as lieutenant governor in Tuesday's primary election.

However, Secrest, who has logged 100,000 miles on her car while campaigning throughout Missouri in the last two years, is hopeful hard work will sway average Republican voters to support her over Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder of Cape Girardeau.

"I started out as the underdog, and things haven't changed," Secrest said. "You don't spend 12 years in the House in the minority as a conservative woman without understanding that concept."

Kinder, a member of the Senate since 1993 and its leader since Republicans took control in 2001, has the backing of the state GOP establishment. Through July 22, he had outspent Secrest by nearly 5 to 1.

Since the lieutenant governor is the Senate's presiding officer, Kinder says his experience gives him an advantage over Secrest, despite her legislative background.

"A senator has a better angle on being lieutenant governor by having served as a rank-and-file member of the body," Kinder said. "A senator will have a more thorough grasp of the rules and parliamentary procedures."

Secrest served a suburban St. Louis district in the House of Representatives from 1991 until term-limited out in 2003, just before Republicans claimed a lower-chamber majority. Secrest notes she wouldn't be the first lieutenant governor who hadn't previously been a senator. Being an outsider, she feels she wouldn't bring along any baggage from past Senate quarrels.

Statewide background

Secrest grew up in southwest Missouri and boasts that she has resided in nine counties during her life. A former public school teacher, she and her husband have run small businesses since 1980. They are currently co-owners of SourceLink World Trade Inc., which markets auto parts.

She says her professional background is far different from that of Kinder and the two Democratic hopefuls -- Senate Minority Floor Leader Ken Jacob of Columbia and former Secretary of State Bekki Cook of Cape Girardeau. All three are lawyers.

"I bring credentials to the table that nobody else does," Secrest said.

To fulfill the lieutenant governor's statutory duty as Missouri's official advocate for the elderly, Secrest says she would promote initiatives that allow senior citizens to maintain their independence while providing them fair financial treatment. She would also emphasize the concerns of average elderly Missourians rather than those of the groups that purport to represent them.

"Two years being out of Jefferson City has helped me understand that we don't listen very well in Jefferson City," Secrest said. "I think we need to do a much better job."

As a member of the Missouri Tourism Commission, she would endorse greater marketing of the little-known, but impressive, attractions the state has to offer.

Secrest says she would be ready to become governor if necessary.

"If I wasn't, I wouldn't be in this particular race," Secrest said. "I'm not somebody who steps into something I don't think I'm prepared for."

Until Gov. Mel Carnahan died in office nearly four years ago, a Missouri lieutenant governor hadn't been called on to become chief executive for 113 years. Because of the Carnahan tragedy, Secrest says there needs to be serious discussion about whether Missouri might be better served by electing the top two executive branch posts as a ticket to ensure both are of the same party. The offices currently are chosen independently.

"If you elect a governor of one philosophy and vision and a lieutenant governor of another philosophy and vision and tragedy happens, it cancels out the will of voters," Secrest said.

'A steady hand'

Kinder likewise says he could assume the mantle of leadership should the situation require it.

"I am a known quantity and would be a steady hand on the tiller," Kinder said. "That is what folks are looking for should that eventuality occur."

A lifelong Cape Girardeau resident, Kinder is assistant to the president of Rust Communications, which owns the Southeast Missourian. Before beginning his 17-year affiliation with the paper, Kinder worked in real estate development as a staff attorney for the Drury Co., which owns a chain of hotels.

His involvement in the hospitality field helped raise his awareness of the tourism industry. One particular area he would address is agritourism, including attracting more visitors to Missouri's burgeoning number of wineries.

On senior citizens' issues, Kinder points to his legislative efforts in helping enact a prescription drug benefit for the elderly in 2001 and sponsoring sweeping nursing home reforms that became law in 2003.

Kinder also notes he and Jacob, his longtime political rival, cosponsored a bipartisan bill to retool the drug benefit to fill a need left unmet by a similar new federal program. Although the Senate unanimously endorsed the measure in the spring, the House took no action.

"Frankly, the fact that Ken Jacob's name was so prominent on the bill helped kill it in the House, where they didn't know why they should be doing him any favors," Kinder said.

Under the campaign slogan of "every dollar counts," Kinder says he would work to root out waste in state government. Although not an official duty of the lieutenant governor, Kinder says it is one the office could assume. As Senate leader, Kinder says he helped trim the chamber's bloated operating budget by $1.34 million.

"I have proven how in one little corner of state government there was 15 percent waste and fat, and I was able to ferret it out," Kinder said.

mpowers@semissourian.com

(573) 635-4608

CANDIDATE PROFILESPeter Kinder

  • Party: Republican

    Age: 50

    Home: Cape Girardeau

    Family: Single

    Occupation: Newspaper executive

    Education: Bachelor's degree in political science from Southeast Missouri State University and law degree from St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas

    Public offices: State senator, 1993 to presentPatricia Secrest

  • Party: Republican

    Age: 59

    Home: Manchester

    Family: Husband, John

    Occupation: Business owner

    Education: Bachelor's degree in education from the University of Missouri-Columbia and master's degree in early childhood education from Washington University in St. Louis

    Public offices: St. Louis County Planning Commission, 1982 to 1987; state representative, 1991 to 2003

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