St. Louis election board member resigns

Thursday, January 10, 2002

Associated Press WriterST. LOUIS (AP) -- A Republican member of the city's election board has resigned, dealing a setback to a body charged with reversing a history of trouble at the polls.

Judy Zakibe, nominated by Democratic Gov. Bob Holden, said Wednesday she was leaving because her nomination was opposed by other Republicans in the city. Her critics, whom she said were local party committee members, were prepared to accuse her of not being Republican enough because she works in a licensing fee office run by a Democrat.

"I've always been a strong Republican, and there are two or three people in this city who don't like me, and they're starting these vicious rumors," Zakibe said. "Anybody who's been around St. Louis knows I'm probably the strongest Republican in this town."

She declined to name her critics because "I'm not going to stoop to their level," she said. "I'm just sorry for the city because I was doing a good job ... There are a lot of changes going on in the city."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Thursday that Zakibe, 48, was arrested 27 years ago on suspicion of robbery. She was released after one night in jail, no charges were filed, and no trial was held. Zakibe told the newspaper she believed the incident would be expunged from her record after five years.

The Post-Dispatch reported that copies of the arrest report had ended up in the hands of aides to Missouri Senate Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau. Kinder had been among those expected to block Zakibe's Senate confirmation.

The attorney general's office has been asked to determine whether any state laws were violated by Kinder's aides when they obtained or shared information of her old arrest, the newspaper said.

The board's Republican elections director, Gary Stoff, said Zakibe's resignation would slow down efforts to improve the city's voting system and its image.

In November 2000, a judge ordered the city's polls to remain open past the closing deadline, a decision that was later reversed. Republican Sen. Kit Bond accused Democrats of conspiring to break the law by trying to extend voting hours to encourage ineligible voters to cast ballots. Under close scrutiny, local elections since then have gone considerably smoother.

Last March, Republican elections director Kevin Coan was arrested and charged with attempting to solicit a 14-year-old girl for sex over the Internet. The girl did not exist and was part of a sting conducted by the Alton, Ill., police.

Michael Chance, a committeeman who was the GOP nominee for mayor last year, said he has never heard another member question Zakibe's credentials as a Republican. He said the opposition to her nomination was largely based on principle: She was not among the names recommended to Holden by the city's Republican central committee.

"This time hopefully the governor will actually take some heed to our recommendation," Chance said.

Holden spokesman Jerry Nachtigal said names previously offered by the committee would be among those considered in the search for a new nominee.

"Certainly, the governor's not required to select anyone that a committee presents," Nachtigal said. "That's his prerogative."

Zakibe has worked at the Affton licensing office since Gov. Mel Carnahan's election in 1992, and before that she worked in a Des Peres office which had been run by Republicans under John Ashcroft's administration. She said she had planned to resign from the Affton office on Jan. 31, and that those plans had not changed.

Zakibe and the three other nominees, all women, had to be renominated by Holden in June after the Missouri Senate failed to confirm them. Senators raised questions about some of the nominees and said they didn't have time to confirm them.

Officially, the nominees are interim election board members until the Senate is able to review them this legislative session. The other nominees were Democrats Audrey Robinson Jones and Kathy Surratt-States, and Republican Yvonne Hunter.

Zakibe herself was a replacement nominee. Holden had first nominated Republican Hilary Ryals Huffman, but she withdrew when it was discovered she had registered to vote less then two months before her nomination. State law requires election commissioners to be registered for at least one year before serving.

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