House GOP picks Jetton for speaker

Thursday, November 4, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Fresh from Election Day triumphs that tightened GOP control of the Missouri Legislature, Republican lawmakers on Wednesday nominated state Rep. Rod Jetton to be the next speaker of the House of Representatives.

Jetton, R-Marble Hill, easily won election to his third House term on Tuesday. He has served as speaker pro tem, the chamber's No. 2 post, since 2003.

Jetton's actual election as speaker won't take place until the legislature convenes on Jan. 5. All 163 House members, including Democrats, will participate in that election, which should be merely a formality.

Jetton will become the first House speaker from Southeast Missouri since Democrat Willis H. Meredith, a Poplar Bluff lawyer, held the post from 1933 to 1935.

Republicans made a net gain of seven House seats for a 97-66 advantage, their largest since 1947.

Jetton said the expanded House majority along with continued GOP control in the Senate and Republican Secretary of State Matt Blunt's election as governor will allow the party to more successfully implement its ideas for a smaller, more efficient state government.

In Southeast Missouri, the status quo in the House was maintained as GOP representatives outnumber Democrats 10-4. One of the Democratic seats is in the lower Bootheel, while the other three are along the northern and western rims of the region.

In the Senate, Republicans picked up three seats for a 23-11 majority -- the most GOP senators since at least Reconstruction.

All three Southeast Missouri Senate seats were open this year and claimed by Republicans. State Reps. Jason Crowell of Cape Girardeau and Rob Mayer of Dexter won two of the seats for the GOP.

State Rep. Kevin Engler of Farmington won the third seat, which because of a redistricting quirk technically had been represented for the last two years by state Sen. Harry Kennedy, D-St. Louis. Kennedy, however, narrowly gained re-election in another district previously held by a Republican.

With 23 Senate seats, the GOP has a veto-proof majority in the chamber. Since Blunt will be governor, however, the likelihood of a veto override being necessary is low.

The other House Republican leaders chosen for the coming session include: Carl Bearden of St. Charles, speaker pro tem; Tom Dempsey of St. Charles, majority floor leader; Jack Goodman of Mt. Vernon, assistant majority floor leader; Brian Nieves of Washington, majority whip; Bob Dixon of Springfield, caucus chairman; and Marilyn Ruestman of Joplin, caucus secretary.

Senate Republicans are expected to pick their new leaders today.

Democratic Party leaders for the legislature will be chosen at a later date.

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