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.
HOMETOWN: Cape Girardeau.
PERSONAL: 54. Single.
PARTY AFFLIATION: Republican
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: teamkinder.com
OCCUPATION: Missouri lieutenant governor.
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in political science, Southeast Missouri State University, 1977; juris doctorate from St. Mary's University, (San Antonio, Texas), 1979.
BACKGROUND: Staff worker for U.S. Rep. Bill Emerson, R-Mo., from 1981 to 1983; attorney and real estate representative for Drury Industries from 1984 to 1987; associate publisher of the Southeast Missourian newspaper in Cape Girardeau from 1987 to 1992; state senator from Missouri's 27th District from 1992 to 2004; lieutenant governor since 2004.
WHAT'S THE JOB?
The lieutenant governor serves as the ex officio president of the Missouri Senate. He or she casts a vote only in case of a tie vote by the elected senators. Senate rules severely restrict the presiding powers of the lieutenant governor. The lieutenant governor is the official state advocate for the elderly, as well as a member of the Missouri Rx Plan Commission. Lieutenant governors serve four-year terms. The salary is $83,965.
The lieutenant governor assumes the powers of the governor if the governor is unable to discharge his duties. If the disability is temporary (such as illness or absence from the state), the lieutenant governor serves as acting governor during the period of disability. If the disability is permanent (such as death or removal from office), the lieutenant governor becomes governor.
ON THE WEB
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 chairman of the Missouri Rx Plan Commission 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, which attempts to reduce 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 the $5 billion program was growing at 17 percent per year.
"When personal income in the state is growing 1, 2, 3 percent or nothing at all, you can't have a 5-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 Kinder's most pronounced roles has been promoting tourism and trying to draw economic development to Missouri.
An avid cyclist, Kinder said he welcomes questions about his role in bringing the Tour of Missouri, a seven-day bicycle race across Missouri, to the state for the past two years. With about 434,000 spectators this year, Kinder hailed the event as the "state's largest sporting event" ever.
Kinder said the state tourism budget is at its highest, topping $20 million in 2007.
He said a $1.7 million investment in the 2008 bicycle 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 re-elected, 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 coming to Missouri so long as there is a "proven payoff to the state and not just a giveaway to a developer who can take the money and run."
Despite his conservative Republican views, Kinder has been outspoken about his support of state aid to boost the city of St. Louis, a Democratic stronghold. At an Oct. 16 campaign fundraiser there, Kinder told contributors, "we have a city that is on the verge of being great again."
Kinder mentioned his support for historic preservation tax credits and other efforts to revitalize downtown St. Louis.
"There are some of us who realize that as the St. Louis region's economy goes, so goes the state of Missouri," Kinder said, "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 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," Kinder said.
Jamie Allman, a conservative radio talk show host in St. Louis, commended Kinder's efforts, especially in regard to programs serving the city's black 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, lauded Kinder.
"He supports us, and we support our friends," Smith said, "and Peter Kinder's been a great friend."
Harris-Stowe President Henry Givens Jr. said he tries not to endorse candidates in political races, but he noted Kinder's role in procuring $15.7 million for his school's Early Childhood Development and Parenting Education Center. Givens said Kinder was also instrumental in the school's name change from "college" to "university."
As far as his involvement in politics in general, Kinder said, "I've always been interested in government."
In 1972, fresh out of high school, Kinder worked for former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth's re-election bid for Missouri attorney general. After graduating from law school at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas, Kinder managed Bill Emerson's successful campaign for a Missouri seat in the 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 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 he's been aggressive in this year's campaign. In a candidate forum held Sept. 12 in Columbia, the incumbent seized every opportunity to attack his Democratic opponent, Sam Page. Kinder questioned whether Page would have a full-time commitment to the state's second-highest office, and he challenged Page on the issues.
"It's a campaign posture," Kinder said. "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."