Schools top candidates’ priority lists

Two Democrats face two Republicans in the lieutenant governor race, for now.
Thursday, September 4, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:40 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It’s just too early.

Two Republicans and two Democrats have announced plans to run for lieutenant governor next year, but analysts say it’s too soon to predict the nature or outcome of the election.

The Democrats — Sen. Ken Jacob of Columbia and former secretary of state Bekki Cook of Cape Girardeau — announced this week their plans to run. Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder of Cape Girardeau and former state Rep. Pat Secrest of Manchester, both Republicans, had previously announced they would run for the seat being vacated by Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell.

There’s plenty of time for more candidates to enter the race, said political consultant John Ballard of Ashland. Because term limits forced out many legislators, he said, some might seek another office.

“It’s a real interesting race, given there’s no incumbent,” said Rick Hardy, an MU political science professor. “Any poll taken now is going to be misleading. This is not a race yet.”

The primary election for statewide offices is Aug. 3. Candidates must file with the secretary of state by March 30. Next year’s general election is Nov. 2.

Name recognition is a factor for the Democrats, Hardy said. The fact that Cook traveled throughout Missouri while secretary of state “enables her to build a very strong following,” he said.

Cook was appointed secretary of state in 1994 after the impeachment of Judi Moriarty and was elected in 1996 to a four-year term. Cook’s victory in a statewide race is an advantage over Jacob, Hardy said.

“The advantage Ken has is he’s seasoned,” Hardy said. “He has considerable political connections.”

Cook said a record of service will be most important.

Jacob said any speculation about which candidate has better name recognition is just that — speculation.

“The only way to go out and test that is to conduct a poll,” Jacob said. “She has run and won a state election. During that period of time as secretary of state, she did receive some notoriety in the media. However, I have been in politics in the state of Missouri for 22 years. During that time, I have received some notoriety as well.”

Jacob is a “good campaigner,” Ballard said, but “if it comes down to him and Cook facing off and she says something that triggers his hair-trigger temper, it may blow. But, of course, there’s just as much possibility of it going the other way.”

Former state Rep. Tim Harlan, who plans to run for Jacob’s Senate seat, sees strengths in both Cook and Jacob.

“They both have statewide contacts,” Harlan said. “Ken has a lot of legislative experience. She has experience in the executive branch, which is what this involves.”

Cook said Wednesday that one of the hallmarks of her terms as secretary of state was customer service.

“The office was in some sort of trouble,” Cook said. “I worked very, very hard to get the office back.”

Both candidates said education will be a dominant issue in their campaigns.

Cook said funding for public education must be addressed, and she called the Republican effort “short-sighted.”

Jacob said education will be his No. 1 issue.

“You’ve heard of the ‘education governor’?” Jacob said, referring to former Gov. Mel Carnahan. “I want to be the ‘education lieutenant governor.’ ”

Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, has known Jacob for many years and said he supports the senator.

“Though we differ on some things and we have very different styles,” Harris said, “he’s my friend, and I’m loyal to my friends.”

Harris also called Cook a “very capable, qualified person.”

“I think that we should feel fortunate that these two people have thrown their hats into the ring,” he said.

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