Thursday, June 03, 2004

What a difference between the two candidates for Lieutenant Governor. Both are good choices but their styles are 180 degrees apart. And don't think that the office of Lt. Gov. is a do nothing job. It used to be, but now it is crucial given the scurrilous behavior of our state GOP legislators. You see, the Lt. Gov. chairs the state senate sessions. He (or she) decides who gets to speak and when. So, running for this prize, we have Bekki Cook, former Secretary of State, and Ken Jacob, retiring minority leader of the senate.
Cook is an excellent organizer and an upbeat person. But don't let her cheerful demeanor fool you. She has backbone too. When asked at the Wednesday night meetup what she would do to encourage state senators to behave more civilly, she described a situation several years ago in which she unexpectedly had to chair a senate session. She had been unaware of the hornet's nest she was walking into, but she kept her cool and held the line against the Republicans. She likened the experience to dealing with a roomful of unruly teenagers. Having had two teenagers herself, she was up to the job. She just kept saying "No." . . . "No." . . . "No." She never raised her voice. Bekki's talk to the group focused on her accomplishments as Secretary of State. She took pride in her record of putting public programs quickly and efficiently into action. She concluded by saying that the Republican candidate, Peter Kinder, is a devil. She's known Kinder since high school and says he's a mean person, much in need of defeat.
Ken Jacob seconded Bekki's opinion of Kinder and joked that she should have killed Kinder in high school and saved everybody a lot of trouble. Jacob's style is confrontational. After college, he counseled troubled teenagers for twelve years--until state budget cuts put him out of work. I'm betting he knew how to confront weaselly excuses. He's been a state senator for 23 years and a lawyer for thirteen or so of those years. For his first nineteen years in the legislature, every year Jacob took satisfaction in accomplishing good for the people of Missouri. But four years ago, right wing extremists took over the lege, and he's been fighting a holding action against them ever since. He holds the record for longest filibuster, not to mention records for the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth longest. The Republican legislators don't like him.
Although Cook and Jacob are friends, they offer a distinct choice in this race. Jacob spurns the idea that civility will work with the current crowd. His advantage is his time in the trenches, dealing with their scurvy tricks and radical agenda. Cook would have a steep learning curve as moderator of the senate, but she looks capable of mastering the subtleties of the job. Furthermore, a considerable part of the Lt. Gov.'s job entails organizational matters, Cook's forte.
A fascinating final note is that some in our group have been disappointed that Jacob supported the ban on gay marriage. Jacob says his support was actually a legal maneuver to get some precedent into the legislative record that might eventually help gay activists. He knew Democrats couldn't prevent the proposed ban from being put on the ballot. He also knew that Republicans dislike him so much they'd vote down anything he proposed. So he proposed that Missouri not recognize gay marriages from other states, and, of course, Republicans voted down his proposal just because it was his. Now it's on record that the legislature chose not to ban recognition of gay marriages from other states. Activists can point to that vote in future court proceedings. Sneaky.
In an important primary race, Cook and Jacob present us with two good options and a tough choice.


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