Republicans claim complete victory in state Legislature

Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Associated Press Writer

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri voters have handed Republicans complete control of the state Legislature for the first time since 1948.

Republicans extended their Senate majority to 20-14 in Tuesday's election while taking a convincing 90-73 majority in the House.

The GOP had held an 18-16 majority in the Senate during the last legislative session while Democrats had an 87-76 majority in the House during the session.

Republicans had not controlled the House since 1954 and had not controlled both chambers since 1948, when -- just like now -- the governor's office was held by a Democrat.

"It's been 48 years. We made history," said Rep. Catherine Hanaway, R-Warson Woods, who is expected to become the state's first female House Speaker. "We heard you throughout Missouri, that you're tired of promises and hungry for results. We have a majority that can govern."

The victory will force Democratic Gov. Bob Holden to work with Republicans if he is to pass any part of his agenda. Holden will be the first governor since Republican John Ashcroft in 1992 to have to work with opposing majorities in both legislative chambers.

"The governor has said he will work with any senators or representatives, regardless of party affiliation, who come to Jefferson City with the spirit of public service," Holden spokeswoman Mary Still said early Wednesday. "He is disappointed, but he is not going to abandon his pledge to the people of Missouri to provide quality education to children, to protect senior citizens and to stand up for the working families of this state."

Rep. Mark Abel, D-Festus, who had hoped to become speaker if Democrats retained the House, said it was unclear how Democrats would function as a minority party.

"The momentum has changed party wise," Abel said. "I wasn't totally surprised. We're going to have to sit down and talk and see where we should go. We need to speak to governor and see what the agenda is."

In one of the more high-profile races of the election, Republican Dan Clemens of Marshfield beat outgoing Democratic House Speaker Jim Kreider of Nixa for the 20th District Senate seat.

"I'm just overwhelmed and humbled by all the support that I have had," Clemens said Tuesday night.

Kreider said he felt that negative campaigning by Clemens had hurt his chances of moving to the Senate, but wished the Republican luck.

"I am proud of my 10-year record of service to southwest Missouri," Kreider said. "I know in the end, we made a difference with dignity and honor."

Democrats had been seeking a net gain of two Senate seats to get the 18 needed to control the chamber. A total of 17 seats were contested in the 34-member body.

There had been 87 vacant House seats because of the onset of term limits, which voters approved in 1992.

With the majority in both chambers, Republicans now will pick chamber leaders, control committee assignments and determine legislative priorities.

House Republicans scheduled a leadership meeting Wednesday afternoon at the Capitol while House Democrats, Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans were all scheduled to meet Thursday.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, said it was clear that voters supported Republicans call for less taxes and better education.

"This was a clear mandate for Republicans in both the House and Senate," Kinder said as Hanaway delivered her party's victory speech.

In one of the more unusual races of the evening, Democrat Judi Moriarty-Ebers, Missouri's first female secretary of state and the only statewide official ever to be ousted from office after impeachment, lost her bid for a House seat.

A total of three incumbents lost in Tuesday's elections. Democrat Nancy Copenhaver of Moberly lost to Republican Therese Sander and Democrat Meg Harding of Kansas city fell to Republican Jason Brown. Meanwhile, Republican Michael Reid of Hazelwood lost to Democrat Cliff Zweifel.

Under term limits, Missouri lawmakers are restricted to eight years in each chamber. The clock began ticking with the 1994 election, meaning this year is the first time many lawmakers have been affected by the limits.

Before the adoption of term limits, legislators could serve as long as voters re-elected them. Legislative attempts have been made during the past few years to change term limits.

The larger number of open seats may have lead to more expensive campaigns in some contested race. More than $7.2 million had been raised by House and Senate candidates heading into October.


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