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Poll: Character, policy among top factors for GOP panel

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

(Photo)
Graphic: How the committee voted in the Southeast Missourian poll.
On a Saturday in February, 86 Republicans will write Missouri political history when they choose a candidate to run for Congress.

Members of a congressional committee will cast votes for one of 13 potential nominees when they gather Feb. 9 in Van Buren, Mo. The candidate who receives 50 percent of the votes, plus one, will win the Republican Party's nomination to run in a special election set for June 4 to fill a vacancy left by former U.S. representative Jo Ann Emerson, who ended her nearly 17-year career in Congress on Jan. 22. Emerson has moved on to head the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

(Photo)
Graphic: How the committee ranked key factors in determining their votes.
No primaries will be held leading up to the special election. Narrowing the field will be up to party committees. Several members of the GOP say their service on the committee is a duty they aren't taking lightly.

But who will they choose? And which factors are they considering?

An unscientific Southeast Missourian poll of committee members conducted from Jan. 22 to 25 shows the front-runners in the Republican field as Missouri House Speaker Pro Tem Jason Smith; former Missouri Republican Party director and party strategist Lloyd Smith; and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder. They are followed by state Rep. Todd Richardson; former state legislator Jason Crowell; and Bob Parker, a former candidate for the 8th District. Determinations of front-runners were made by asking committee members to provide their top three candidates to fill the vacancy.

The candidate who receives the committee's nomination will face Democratic and Libertarian opponents, as well as possible independent candidates.

Committee members also were asked to rank in order of importance four factors when making their decision about the nominees. On top of considerations for the committee was character, followed by policy positions, the ability to win re-election, and experience.

Not all committee members wanted to rank their top three choices -- several said they remain undecided. But that hasn't stopped them from putting much thought and effort into their decision-making.

Wayne Bowen, who will cast two votes for a nominee as chair of the Republicans' 147th House District committee, is vice chairman of the Cape Girardeau County committee. Although in that undecided category, Bowen is applying several criteria when looking at each candidate.

"I'm concerned who is going to be the best nominee to bring the party together, because we have major groups within the party that are significant," Bowen said.

He listed "pro-liberty Republicans," who he said in the past have supported candidates like Ron Paul, "establishment Republicans," who have built the party in the district and solidified the party's engagement among its members, Evangelicals and those primarily interested in economic issues and regulations.

"We need someone who is accessible among the broad range of groups in the party," Bowen said.

He also wants in a candidate someone who "will continue Emerson's unparalleled attention to the district."

Bowen believes the best representative will personally call on federal bureaucrats for answers when the district's constituents are facing issues.

Other considerations for Bowen are whether candidates would build the party by campaigning for other Republicans leading up to contests for state and local seats in general elections, and if candidates possess enough character and dignity to be seen as a good advocate for the district to those who live outside Missouri.

Some committee members, such as Kevin Mainord, of East Prairie, Mo., aren't placing as much importance on the strength of the party -- relying instead on what they already know about a candidate and their personal feelings to make their decision. Mainord readily admits he will vote for Lloyd Smith during the nomination meeting.

"We're lucky to have a lot of people interested in this," Mainord said. "But the thing I know for sure right now, and I've told this to anyone I meet who asks, and to people on the committee -- is that Lloyd already knows all the issues of the 8th district."

Mainord sees a scenario with Smith replacing Jo Ann Emerson as a pass of the torch since Smith acted as a former chief of staff for both the congresswoman and her late husband, Bill Emerson.

Dr. Beverly Peters, of Marble Hill, Mo., like Bowen, will cast two votes for a nominee. She views her role as a committee member as being about representation of her home territory.

"I don't know if everybody's approaching it that way, but that's just how I feel like I should approach it," she said. "I ask the people in Bollinger County, people that I know and see around town, 'what are your thoughts?' Because essentially, in this particular instance, they are my constituents. I don't consider myself a politician, or holding an elected office, per se, but in this case I am representing the voters in my county and in my district that I represent, and I feel like their opinions count."

Peters described her experience on the committee so far as "an enjoyable but exhausting process."

As she has attempted to recruit Republicans into committee participation, Peters said she is quick to share the possible responsibilities one could face should they decide to join a committee.

"I always say, these committees are not important until they are. And then once they become important -- they are extremely important," she said.

Missouri statutes state that established political parties shall have legislative committees, with their purpose being to represent and act for the party in between party conventions. A responsibility of the committees includes nominating candidates for elections should a vacancy occur in a legislative district.

During the Republican committee's meeting, nominations will take place through committee members using one minute each to vocally announce their choice of nominee, according to current proposed committee rules. No seconds of nominations will be required.

Once nominations are taken, the committee will vote for nominated candidates by secret ballot after the candidates have three minutes each to address the committee. After a vote is taken, if no candidate has received the required 50 percent-plus-one-vote minimum needed to receive the nomination, the candidate receiving the fewest number of votes will be eliminated from the nomination process and a new vote will be taken. If there is a tie between two or more candidates for fewest votes, and that tie is two votes or fewer per candidate, all tying candidates are eliminated from consideration.

If the total vote for each candidate tied is three votes or more, a new election will be held without a candidate having been eliminated. Any candidate who fails to garner a vote during any elections will be eliminated, along with the candidate who receives the fewest votes. After a vote has been taken, and if no candidate has received the required majority, any current candidate or committee member may request that the body stand at ease for up to 5 minutes. If no request is made, the meeting will proceed.

Committee members, according to proposed rules, also can only vote in person. No proxies are allowed.

eragan@semissourian.com

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So it appears the top three are old line political hacks who have never done anything but be in political office. I would rather see someone who has some experience in business or industry, who understands what it means to work for a living. Who has to worry about paying bills, about getting medical insurance, about saving for retirement. Someone who has been responsible for fiscal conservatism, rather than spending other peoples' money. Someone who has really really worked with and understands the problems and issues of the average citizen, and who has lived with those problems and issues. And, most importantly, someone who has spent their career as part of a political machine where they own favors and payback to every other politician and campaign contributor.

-- Posted by ParkerDaws on Wed, Jan 30, 2013, at 10:45 AM

Very disappointed to see that the vote will be secret ballot!

What is the logic behind this decision?

No one is forcing the members of this committee to attend or vote. In fact it is a significant duty - under state law - for the POSITIONS THEY SOUGHT.

I think some accountability to the people of their home county or legislative district would be a good thing. Instead the Committee leadership has set the table for potential back room deals and possible corrupt bargains.

SoutheastMissourian: please shed some light on this decision and speak out to change it. You did a wonderful job bringing sunshine to the Democratic nomination process, please do the same here.

-- Posted by SamTheEagle on Wed, Jan 30, 2013, at 3:05 PM

SamTheEagle

You have this backwards. The very reason why we want secret ballot is so we don't have to feel the political pressures (from the bigwigs in the room) to vote a certain way. We desire to vote our conscience, just like you do in the voting booth when you go to vote. We should be allowed to do that without feeling that we are being scrutinized or that there will be ramifications. I assure you this process will be more secure with secret ballots.

-- Posted by HollyLintner on Wed, Jan 30, 2013, at 4:37 PM

I respectfully disagree.

There should be ramifications. There should be accountability. There should be scrutiny.

This is a process dictated by law. Choosing this nominee allows a candidate access to the ballot without collecting a large number of signatures.

Dr. Peters has it right, the members of the committee have a constituency that they should be responsive too. The only way to know if they are responsive is to know how they vote.

The same reason the future member of Congress's votes will be public. The same reason every senators vote for a Presidential nominee is public. "Sunshine is the best disinfectant."

-- Posted by SamTheEagle on Wed, Jan 30, 2013, at 5:05 PM

Which constituents should we listen to??? Lots of different opinions out there. NO ONE is more about a representative form of government in the purest form than me. Just ask anyone that I have had a conversation with. I am literally being pulled in ten different directions. At some point you have to trust the process and trust that I am evaluating ALL candidates by personally meeting with everyone, just as all members of the committee are. I only have one vote. I cannot represent the values of each constituent. But, I will listen and make the best decision possible. You may have seen my quote back in December where I said, "I hope that the committee members will leave the political bs out of this and make the best decision for the district". As a voluntary member of this committee, who is doing my job respectfully, I most certainly should not have ramifications for making the best decisions that I am lead (by God) to make!!! You want to know how we vote...ask us. And I can assure you, we have already received plenty of scrutiny!!!

-- Posted by HollyLintner on Wed, Jan 30, 2013, at 5:19 PM

With all respect, I have no doubt a majority of the members of the committee are taking the process seriously and will attempt to make what they believe will be the best decision. I appreciate the time members are undoubtedly spending meeting with politicians and I'm glad its not my time. Please know this is not personal.

I am curious, if you are willing to tell me how you vote in private, why not in public?

As has been made clear, the members of the committee are voluntary members administering a civic duty.

-- Posted by SamTheEagle on Wed, Jan 30, 2013, at 5:32 PM

When I have made my decision and cast my vote, I have no problem being forthright about my decision. The committee has a right to make the rules (those that aren't governed by law). We have a right to decide how the process will be fairest. I stand by that decision.

-- Posted by HollyLintner on Wed, Jan 30, 2013, at 5:43 PM

I hope the full committee takes a moment and rejects this secretive proposal by their rules committee (I believe they have that ability).

Otherwise, I feel the criticisms that this is a closed door, secretive decision holds truth.

I also hope you will give Senator McCaskill the benefit of "trusting the process" when choosing "which constituents to listen to" and casting a vote on taxes, guns or spending... But then again the votes she takes are public.

-- Posted by SamTheEagle on Wed, Jan 30, 2013, at 5:51 PM

Not a closed door meeting. The Dems were doing that. Our meeting has always been open. I encourage you to attend. Maybe then you will understand my position.

-- Posted by HollyLintner on Wed, Jan 30, 2013, at 5:56 PM

Thank you for the invitation. And I appreciate this conversation.

But respectively, the only public action here is the VOTE. Not the speeches. Not the listening sessions (although they are evidence of a well run and extensive search). The votes are the only actions that are essentially actions of the State of Missouri.

The votes are key. And not just the final vote, but the first and the second and the third too. The final vote, might be simple for a member of the committee to explain. However, the way the selection has been explained, it is process of elimination.

As anyone who has watched the TV show Survivor knows (not to trivialize this important civic duty): the last vote is often a "fait accompli" and the real decision is made with the early alliances.

-- Posted by SamTheEagle on Wed, Jan 30, 2013, at 6:08 PM


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Votes per candidate
Jason Smith: 22

Lloyd Smith: 15

Peter Kinder: 13

Todd Richardson: 9

Jason Crowell: 7

Bob Parker: 5

Wendell Bailey: 3

Scott Lipke: 2

Sarah Steelman: 2

Dan Brown: 1

John Tyrell: 1

Bios: The top three candidates identified by 8th District GOP committee members

The following are short biographies of the top three candidates identified in a Southeast Missourian poll of the Republican 8th District Congressional Committee. For more on the poll read "Character, policy among top factors for GOP panel" by clicking on the "related link" on this page.

Jason Smith

(Photo)
Missouri House Speaker Pro Tem Jason Smith speaks during the 8th Congressional District Candidate Forum sponsored by the Southeast Missouri Pachyderm Club Thursday Jan. 17, at the Concourse building in Cape Girardeau.
(ADAM VOGLER)
At 32, Smith is among the youngest candidates in the field -- but well known as he now serves as the Missouri House of Representatives' Speaker Pro Tem.

Smith was elected in 2005 to represent the 120th House district, which covers parts of Crawford and Phelps counties.

A bill recently filed by Smith that would change how the state handles vacancies in statewide offices by requiring a special election has brought him more attention recently. He also is known to have met with most, if not all, committee members since Emerson announced her resignation, and according to several on the committee, made strong showings when touting conservative positions at two public candidate forums. Smith has a law degree from Oklahoma City University School of Law, bachelor's degrees in agricultural economics and business administration, and he manages a family farm in Salem, Mo.

Lloyd Smith

(Photo)
Lloyd Smith, former executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, speaks during the 8th Congressional District Candidate Forum sponsored by the Southeast Missouri Pachyderm Club Thursday Jan. 17, at the Concourse building in Cape Girardeau.
(ADAM VOGLER)
Smith's connection to the Emersons goes back decades -- Jo Ann Emerson has said his name is "inseparable" from her service in Congress and that of her late husband, Bill Emerson, who represented the 8th District from 1981 until his death in 1996.

Smith, originally from East Prairie, Mo., calls Sikeston, Mo., home. He served as chief of staff for both the Emersons before becoming executive director of the Missouri Republican Party in 2009, but resigned from the post last month to turn his focus to his bid for the nomination. Background includes work for the campaigns of former Sen. Jim Talent and President George W. Bush. Committee members who support Smith say they feel no other candidate can provide a smoother transition into Congress after the departure of Jo Ann Emerson, and that Smith is someone they know they can trust to carry on a tradition of good constituent services in the district.

Peter Kinder

(Photo)
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder speaks during the 8th Congressional District Candidate Forum sponsored by the Southeast Missouri Pachyderm Club Thursday Jan. 17, at the Concourse building in Cape Girardeau.
(ADAM VOGLER)
A Cape Girardeau native, Kinder, 58, is serving a third term as Missouri's lieutenant governor. That follows 12 years of service in the Missouri Senate, where he was elected president pro tem.

In 2008, Kinder was the only Republican to win statewide office when all others went to Democrats. He also has been a key potential Republican gubernatorial candidate.

Kinder has pointed several times to his ability to get re-elected. In the most recent election, he carried 108 of the state's 114 counties. Supporters like his educated approach to policy-related questions and his way of keeping a reserved demeanor while delivering strong rhetoric.

Kinder acted as campaign manager for Bill Emerson, who ran for Congress in 1980 and won -- the first time since 1928 a Republican was able to win the 8th District seat.

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Methodology
How the survey data was compiled
The Southeast Missourian recently conducted an unscientific poll of the members of the 8th District Republican Committee. The Missourian called each of the 86 members, leaving messages twice if not reached on the first call. Each candidate had three days to respond to the first message, and at least one day to respond to the second...
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