Peter Kinder
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Peter Kinder

Date: October 21, 2008
By: Joel Walsh
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Toward the end of the workday Oct. 9, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder leaned back in an office chair with legs crossed and shoes off.

Over the course of a half-hour conversation, the incumbent Republican touched on many of the initiatives he has spearheaded during the past four years and discussed what plans he has, if elected, for a second term.

As official advocate for the elderly in the state, Kinder said he showed "good fiscal management and good priority use" in procuring close to $7 million for the state's senior meals program during four budget cycles - all without the need of a tax increase.

He also noted his influence as chair of the Missouri Rx Plan in providing prescription drug assistance to seniors that had previously been unavailable.

"Today under the MoRx Plan more than 182,000 low-income seniors are getting assistance with their monthly prescription costs," Kinder said.

Kinder further characterized himself as a champion of a program called Missourians Stopping Adult Financial Exploitation that raises awareness and attempts to end cases of fraud against the elderly.  And he noted the lieutenant governor's senior service awards, which recognize volunteer efforts of Missouri seniors and were implemented under his tenure.

In regard to cuts to the state's Medicaid program that were made in 2005, Kinder said "the old Medicaid system was broken" and that the more than $5 billion program was growing at 17 percent per year.

"When personal income in the state is growing one, two, three percent or nothing at all, you can't have a five-point-something-billion-dollar program growing at 17 percent a year or it's going to crowd out education funding, mental health funding, higher education funding, everything else," he argued. "It had to be reformed."

"Our effort was to redirect resources to those who most need it and to transform the program into a health and wellness program in which people take responsibility for their own health," Kinder said.

One of the current lieutenant governor's most pronounced role to state government has been in promoting tourism and attempting to draw economic development to Missouri.

An avid cyclist himself, Kinder said he welcomes questions on his role in bringing the Tour of Missouri, a seven-day bicycle race across Missouri, to the state for the past two years. With approximately 434,000 spectators this year, Kinder hailed the event as the "state's largest sporting event" ever.

According to him, the state tourism budget is at an all-time high, topping $20 million in 2007.

He said a $1.7 million investment for the 2008 Tour resulted in an economic return of more than $26.2 million, and, he added, the tourists who were drawn to the race were "more affluent, stayed longer and spent more money each day than the average visitor to our state. That's obviously the folks we want coming back to Missouri."

"If I'm reelected, this race will be a self-sustaining, annual event," Kinder said.

As far as other efforts to draw new revenue to the state, Kinder said he supports offering government-sponsored incentives to developers interested in locating in Missouri so long as there is "proven payoff to the state and not just a giveaway to a developer who can take the money and run."

For a conservative Republican, one seemingly inconsistency with Kinder has been his long-term support for efforts in the solidly Democratic St. Louis city.

At a campaign fundraiser in St. Louis on Oct. 16, Kinder told contributors in the area, "we have a city that is on the verge of being great again."

He mentioned his support for historic preservation tax credits and other efforts to revitalize downtown St. Louis, saying, "There are some of us who realize that as the St. Louis region's economy goes, so goes the state of Missouri; and those of us from out-state Missouri need to be attentive to that because the rural areas don't prosper if the city and the urban region is not prospering as well."

Kinder went on to emphasize his efforts in working with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri, particularly in regard to the Amachi Mentoring Program. The program, through partnership with the Missouri Department of Corrections, provides mentors for children with parents in prison.

"This Missouri model should go national," Kinder said. "I've often thought that folks who are listening to candidates competing for their attention for public office, they don't really care how much you know until they know how much you care, and this Amachi mentoring program has been a special focus of mine."

Jamie Allman, a conservative radio talk show host in St. Louis, commended Kinder's efforts, especially in regard to programs serving the city's African-American population.

"Peter Kinder is the kind of politician who will cross all kinds of racial lines and political lines to improve the lot of everybody," Allman said. "And it's a rare politician who will do that."

Wayman Smith III, chairman of the Board of Regents for Harris-Stowe State University in urban St. Louis, said Peter Kinder has been very supportive of the institution.

"He supports us and we support our friends," Smith said, "and Peter Kinder's been a great friend."

University president Dr. Henry Given said he tries not to endorse candidates in political races, but he noted Kinder's role in procuring $15.7 million for Harris-Stowe's new Early Childhood Development and Parenting Education Center. Given said Kinder was also instrumental in the school's name change from 'college' to 'university'. 

As far as Kinder's involvement in politics in general, the seasoned politician said, "I've always been interested in government."

Kinder told how he worked for U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth's then reelection bid for Missouri Attorney General fresh out of high school in 1972.

After graduating from law school at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas, Kinder managed Norvell William "Bill" Emerson's successful campaign for U.S. Congress.

That was "the first time a Republican won in southeast Missouri for U.S. Congress since 1928," Kinder said.

From 1984 to 1992, Kinder worked as attorney and real estate representative for Drury Industries Inc. and then as associate publisher for the Southeast Missourian newspaper in Cape Girardeau.

In 1992, he was elected to the Missouri Senate, a position he held until his successful bid for lieutenant governor in 2004.

Kinder acknowledged that in his current campaign he is an aggressive campaigner.

In a candidate forum held Sept. 12 in Columbia, the incumbent did not let any opportunities to attack his Democratic opponent, Sam Page, pass him by. Kinder questioned Page's full-time commitment to the office and his stance on a wide range of issues.

Of his approach, Kinder said: "It's a campaign posture I come with my chinstrap strapped on tight and ready to play, and my record shows that when the election is over I work with people from all parties  Democrats, Republicans and independents."