Kansas City Strip

Candle in the wind: At her father’s funeral last month, Robin Carnahan urged mourners not to let “the fire go out.” She wasn’t just eulogizing Mel Carnahan — she was making a calculated political statement, trying to get out the vote for her dead father in the race for Republican John Ashcroft‘s U.S. Senate seat. Whomever new Governor Roger Wilson named to fill his seat (there was already talk that it would be Carnahan’s widow, Jean) could tip the balance of power for Democrats in Washington. Missouri took up the charge and Democrats won throughout the state — if only barely, as in the gubernatorial race between Republican Jim Talent and Democrat Bob Holden.

But now it turns out that some state Democrats aren’t so committed to keeping Mel’s fire going. When Democrats in the Missouri House of Representatives met on November 9 to select their leaders for next session — speaker of the House, speaker pro tem, majority floor leader, assistant majority floor leader, caucus chairperson, and caucus secretary — those powerful positions went to virtual Republicans.

New Speaker Jim Kreider of Nixa, for example, has carried the National Rifle Association’s bucket by sponsoring legislation to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits. Along with new Majority Floor Leader Wayne Crump of Potosi, Kreider was behind last year’s concealed-weapons referendum. New Caucus Secretary Joan Barry of St. Louis helped sponsor a bill to ban partial-birth abortions.

Carnahan vetoed that bill last year, but the General Assembly voted to override that veto. It was only the third time in the entire century (and the seventh time ever) that legislators reversed a Missouri governor’s veto. Kreider, Crump, and Barry were among those handing Carnahan his head on a platter, as were Mark Abel of Festus (new speaker pro tem), Ted Farnen of Mexico (new caucus chairman), and James Michael Foley of St. Ann (new assistant majority floor leader). Kreider says the House Democratic leadership will carry on Carnahan’s legacy because “we are all pro-public-education.” He says the slate is not conservative. “It’s a moderate leadership and reflects all of Missouri. We can go forward and help the citizens of this state. I’m looking forward to it.”

Holden, however, undoubtedly is dreading it. We won’t speculate on what Mel Carnahan might be doing in his grave.

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