Kinder beat Cook by six-tenths of a percent

Thursday, November 4, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- At 2:15 a.m. on Wednesday, after a grueling night of watching election returns trickle in at a St. Louis hotel, Peter Kinder's campaign manager cleared the room to break the bad news to the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.

"He sought to acquaint me with the cold reality that I was going to get massacred in St. Louis, and I was probably going to lose," Kinder said later. "I tried to take it like a man, but I did not believe it."

Kinder's faith turned out not to be misplaced. When the final results were tallied around 4:30 a.m., Kinder had squeaked to a victory over Democrat Bekki Cook by 16,255 votes out of the 2.65 million votes cast.

According to the unofficial results, Kinder received 49 percent of the statewide vote, barely ahead of Cook's 48.4 percent. Libertarian Mike Ferguson of Belton picked up 2 percent, and Constitution Party candidate Bruce Hillis of Dexter claimed 0.6 percent.

Cook, a former Missouri secretary of state, conceded the election but noted that the final vote tally will likely change as local election authorities certify the official results. However, she doesn't expect that to alter the outcome.

"I'm waiting for the certification of the election and waiting to see what might arise, but right now I would not anticipate requesting a recount," Cook said.

Because Kinder's margin of victory was less than 1 percentage point, Cook is entitled by law to a statewide recount.

Cook congratulated Kinder for his win and wished him well in his tenure as lieutenant governor.

Both Cook and Kinder, the president pro tem of the state Senate, hail from Cape Girardeau. Kinder trounced Cook in Cape Girardeau County 61.3 percent to 36.7 percent.

Late returns from vote-rich St. Louis city, which Cook won by nearly 58 percentage points, kept the outcome in doubt until the wee hours of Wednesday morning and made it the last of Missouri's statewide contests to be decided.

Cook collected nearly 200,000 more votes than Kinder in St. Louis, St. Louis County and Kansas City combined. Her urban dominance, however, proved insufficient to overcome Kinder's strong rural performance.

Kinder claimed 89 Missouri counties, while 25 counties plus St. Louis and Kansas City went to Cook.

Of 18 Southeast Missouri counties, Cook won eight -- Dunklin, Iron, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Reynolds, St. Francois and Ste. Genevieve. Whereas most of Kinder's victories in the region were by wide margins, Cook's area wins generally were close.

Both Kinder and Cook said GOP victories at the top of the statewide ticket helped Kinder carry the day.

"The overriding factor was President Bush won by seven points in Missouri," Cook said. "That was enough to clip me off."

Kinder is assistant to the chairman of Rust Communications, which owns the Southeast Missourian. He will become just the third Cape Girardeau County resident and the first Republican county resident to serve as lieutenant governor.

The others, both Democrats, were Franklin Cannon, who held the post from 1836 to 1840, and Wilson Brown, who served from 1853 to 1857.

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