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A two-person race for Speaker of the House

January 17, 2000
By: Jennifer Lutz
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Next January one of Columbia's own legislators could have the best seat in the House.

Rep. Tim Harlan said because of the impact of term limits, he has decided to run for Speaker of the House after only three terms in office.

"Legislators are having to feel their way along," Harlan said. "Term limits push everything forward."

He said normally a Representative wouldn't consider running for Speaker until 10 years after being first elected. However, term limits are pushing legislators to think ahead.

Because he lives close to the Capital and can take some time off from his law practice are the main advantages in his campaign. He also has written some controversial insurance bills in the past which made him work with legislators from both sides of the aisle.

Harlan being geographically close to the Capital may not be the most important issue to other legislators.

"I don't see any regional problems, but I'd like to see someone with more conservative values as Speaker," said Minority Caucus Chairman Rep. Chuck Pryor, R-Versailles. "Anyone from a rural area would like to see one of their own in charge."

However, the rural community will not be seeing the Agriculture Committee leader, Rep. Sam Leake, D-Center, taking control of the Speaker seat. Leake has dropped out of the race, even though he never publicly declared. Like Harlan, term limits played a role in his decision.

"Because of personal reasons and the effects of term limits, I have decided to try other possibilities," Leake said. "There was a sizable number of people willing to support my candidacy, but I've decided not to run."

Elected in 1988, Leake only has one more term left in the House due to term limits.

Leake's departure makes it, so far, a two-person race.

Rep. Jim Kreider, from Nixa, is the only other announced competitor against Harlan for the Speaker's seat.

"Sam dropping out helps," Kreider said.

Elected in 1992, Kreider is the Speaker Pro Tem as well as the drug seizures and asset forfeiture chairman.

"I think I can do a better job knowing I have to do it now," he said, speaking about the effects of term limits. "A term-limited Speaker can get more done than a non-term limited Speaker."

Kreider's top priority now is to make sure that the Democrats keep the majority in the House. If Republicans gain control in November, the tide will turn completely with different contenders fighting for the Speaker seat.

"When the Republicans gain majority it will all be a moot point anyway," Pryor said about the race between Harlan and Kreider.

The House Speaker is elected by members of the House in January after the general elections.

But the real decision about the House Speaker will be made in just days after the November elections when the majority party members will select their nominee for the post. Because party members usually vote in unity in January on House leadership positions, the November nomination usually guarantees election.