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Two-person race for Speaker of the House

January 17, 2000
By: Jennifer Lutz
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Although the election isn't until January, the Speaker of the House race has already dropped one of its possible contendors.

Rep. Sam Leake, D-Center, has bowed out, although he never officially declared he was running.

"Because of personal reasons and the effects of term limits, I have decided to try other possibilities," Leake said. "There was a sizable number of people willing to support my candidacy, but I've decided not to run."

Leake, the Agriculture Committee leader, was elected in 1988 and only has one more term left in the House due to term limits.

With Leake's departure, it now becomes a two-person race, so far, for the best seat in the House. Rep. Tim Harlan, D-Columbia, and Rep. Jim Kreider, D-Nixa, are the only two legislators who have publically declared their intent to run for the Speaker's seat.

Term limits also played a part in Harlan's decision to run after only three terms in office. He said normally a Representative would wait about 10 years before eyeing the top House position.

"Legislators are having to feel their way along," he said. "Term limits push everything forward."

Eventhough Harlan's district is geographically close to the Capital, some legislators don't see that as an issue.

"I don't see any regional problems, but I'd like to see someone with more conservative values as Speaker," said Minority Caucus Chairman Rep. Chuck Pryor, R-Versailles. "Anyone from a rural area would like to see one of their own in charge."

The other possible contendor for the Speaker's seat, Kreider, is the current Speaker Pro Tem as well as the drug seizures and asset forfeiture chairman.

"I think I can do a better job knowing I have to do it now," he said speaking about the effects of term limits. "A term-limited Speaker can get more done than a non-term limited Speaker."

Kreider's top priority now is to make sure the Democrats keep the majority in the House. If Republicans gain control in November, the tide will turn completely with different contenders fighting for the Speaker's seat.

"When Republicans gain majority it will all be a moot point anyway," Pryor said about the race between Harlan and Kreider.

The House Speaker is elected by members of the House in January after the general elections.

But the real decision about the House Speaker will be made in just days after the November elections when the majority party members will select their nominee for the post. Because party members usually vote in unity in January on House leadership positions, the November nomination usually guarantees election.