COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The top leader of the Missouri Senate said he would be "very alarmed" if Attorney General Jay Nixon is selected as the next president of the University of Missouri.
Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, has been a frequent and outspoken critic of Nixon, a Democrat who is serving his third term as attorney general.
"I would be very alarmed if he were chosen," Kinder said of Nixon during an interview with the Columbia Daily Tribune, "and I think a lot of folks in the University of Missouri family would as well."
Kinder mentioned Nixon's bitter and unsuccessful 1998 bid to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Kit Bond. Kinder said Bond "has literally hauled tens of millions of dollars to that school in projects and grants and research funding."
"It would be a most intolerable slap in the face to our senior senator to have to put up with a Jay Nixon presidency," Kinder said Thursday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
The usually outspoken Nixon has declined to discuss the university presidential search, including whether he wants the job.
Asked Thursday about Kinder's comments, Nixon spokesman Chuck Hatfield said: "The attorney general has confidence that the Board of Curators will make this decision based on qualifications and who can best guide the University of Missouri through some trying times."
Bond said in a statement released Thursday from his Washington office that the university presidency "is a matter for the Board of Curators to determine."
"I sincerely hope their selection will best represent the long-term interests and viability of the university, which is a great academic institution," Bond said.
Sources familiar with the search have told The AP that Nixon and former Gov. Roger Wilson, also a Democrat, are among about a dozen names under consideration.
A presidential search committee, which includes all nine members of the governing Board of Curators, is to meet today in Columbia. Manuel Pacheco, president of the university for five years, plans to retire in 2003.
Paul Steele, a curator who is chairing the search committee, said the panel plans to trim the list of candidates to eight to 10 names. They hope to select a president by the end of the year.
The curators have declined to identify any candidates.
But Steele has said the search has reached beyond candidates with traditional academic backgrounds to find prospects with executive skills and the ability to lure private financial support during tough economic times.
Kinder questioned why the curators are considering anyone with a political background, especially with the general election looming Nov. 5.
He noted that the GOP controls the Senate and aims to retain a chamber majority -- which would put Republicans in charge of considering Democratic Gov. Bob Holden's appointees to the Board of Curators.