Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder

Friday, August 26, 2011

I served six years in the Missouri Legislature as a state representative and now over 40 years in the newspaper business. I've had experiences on the Governor's Reform Committee of over 30 members just seven years ago. I know how hard it is to get some in the media to report on the content of bills and recommendations. After months of meetings and honest discussion of a strong committee there was little coverage of our recommendation (as we witnessed recently of the special federal committee on the budget).

I've known Peter Kinder for years as a personal friend, former business associate and supporter of his government service career. I went to the same church and sang in the choir with him and his mother. Recently Peter has been castigated to the extreme by some in the media (like a rag doll a dog won't let go).

In recently talking with Peter about his time line in the political arena, I realized that I really didn't know a lot of the details. This is my effort to give substance, facts and background to Kinder's many years of public service.

Days after earning his law degree and passing the Missouri Bar exam in February, 1980, he plunged into managing the old 10th District congressional campaign. Republicans hadn't won a congressional race there since 1928, but that campaign upended a six-term incumbent, electing Bill Emerson. Next he spent 15 months in Emerson's D.C. office, then managed his tough 1982 re-election campaign.

In early 1983 Kinder joined the legal staff of Drury Industries Inc., where he remained four years, traveling and doing real estate law and development work. I told Peter he ought to pay them for the experience he would and did gain.

After four years with the Drurys, in 1987 Kinder made a career change into newspaper publishing with the Southeast Missourian in Cape Girardeau. For 17 years he wrote columns and some editorials until becoming a full-time lieutenant governor in 2005.

Peter first ran for State Senate in 1992. His opponent: a good friend of mine, Betty Hearnes, a former first lady and distinguished leader who had been her party's gubernatorial nominee four years earlier. A spirited but clean campaign ensued, and Kinder came from behind to win on an otherwise grim election night for the Missouri GOP. This made Kinder the first Republican to represent any Bootheel counties in the Missouri Senate.

In 1993 he took his seat in what seemed a perpetual Republican minority. The Democrats controlled the governor's mansion and a big House majority. January 2001 saw the Republicans win an 18-16 majority. He was elected the first Republican Senate president pro tem in 53 years and served 12 years as a state senator (pre-term limits).

Along with other senators (Republicans and Democrats) they reorganized the Senate -- cut costs, sold unused assets, laid off ghost employees and brought fiscal responsibility to the state budget at a time when this wasn't always popular. Subsequent elections yielded GOP gains in both '02 and '04. When he departed the Senate to serve as lieutenant governor, Republicans had added a House majority and built the then-largest GOP Senate majority in state history.

In his seven years as lieutenant governor, Kinder has been involved with many issues that if I listed them would read like a campaign brochure.

Elections matter. I don't know if Peter Kinder will run for governor or not, but I think he will. A perfect person or candidate? There is no such person alive today.

What I do know is that the fans of a major-league baseball team would not support the benching of a star player who has hit over .300 for many years because of some minor personal issues of his past.

I hope all of you recognize that 19 years in elective office at salaries below his earning capabilities deserve your consideration and evaluation on his leadership qualities if Peter Kinder decides to run for governor.

I thank you for reading. I've struggled with how to condense my feelings and information sharing of my many years of experience with Kinder into a short column.

The Man in the Arena

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

-- From a speech by Theodore Roosevelt

Gary Rust is the chairman of Rust Communications.

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