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Missouri's GOP primary has winner-take-all

February 21, 2000
By: Jennifer Lutz
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - In sports the winner usually takes home the gold medal, the second-place contender the silver, and the third contestant receives the bronze.

In Missouri Republican politics, however, the runner-up will walk away empty handed.

Although this is only the second presidential primary to be held in the state, it will be the first time that Missouri will be a winner-take-all for Republican contenders.

It's not the state's decision -- it's the party's as to how delegates are allocated following the primary.

"I think Missouri being a winner-take-all state encourages candidates to come here and make this state a priority," said one of George Bush's top Missouri officials - Rep. Catherine Hanaway, R-St. Louis County.

Hanaway is the state campaign executive director for Bush's presidential campaign. She said that in the democratic system, the majority rules and she sees no reason for the presidential primary to be any different.

"Being a close second for president, isn't president," Hanaway said.

However, some legislators are clearly against the idea that the candidate to receive the most votes, should receive all of the state's Republican national convention delegates.

"I've never thought it was a good idea," said Sen. Sarah Steelman, R-Rolla. Steelman and her husband are the state chairmen for John McCain's presidential campaign.

Steelman said Missouri being a winner-take-all state will hurt presidential contenders such as McCain.

"If you can win at the county level, you should be able to take delegates to the state level," she said.

Currently, the winner in the Missouri primary will receive all 35 national convention delegates. After the South Carolina GOP primary on Saturday, Bush has captured 61 votes, McCain 14, Alan Keys 4, and 12 votes have been uncommitted. A contender needs 1,034 to become nominated.

"It's obvious that in a winner-take-all, finishing a close second means nothing," said Rep. Mike Gibbons, the assistant minority floor leader for the House from St. Louis County. "If you think you're going to win, then you want a winner-take-all, but if you're not sure, then you want a shot."

Steelman said she would rather have the candidates receive a percentage of delegates based on the number of votes won. This would be identical to how the Democratic Party handles awarding national-convention delegates from Missouri and other primary states.

Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats in Missouri do not have a winner-take-all system. Missouri will award 92 convention votes to the Democratic presidential contenders.

"We allow for greater participation for everyone," said Kim Baldwin, communication director for the state's Democratic Party. "There is no benefit for us to do a winner-take-all."

March 7 will be the date of the Missouri presidential primary for Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and the Reform and Constitution parties.