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Republican says Democratic state senator has blocked him from County Election Board post

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 20, 2009 - Jay Kanzler, a lawyer from St. Louis County and a Republican, has had two big political disappointments in his life:

-- In 2002, his bid for state auditor -- favored by Republican leaders -- was killed when he was the surprise loser in the primary to a political unknown who turned out to be convicted felon.

-- This year, when his selection by Gov. Jay Nixon to be on the St. Louis County Election Board has apparently been killed by his home-district legislator, state Sen. Joan Bray, D-University City.

Under Missouri Senate protocol, a candidate for a gubernatorial nomination that requires Senate approval (not all do) needs the support of their home-district senator, even if they're of the opposing party.

As a rule, such support is a given, although there are various cases where a senator has objected. Former Gov. Matt Blunt ran into several such instances, also usually involving urban Democratic state senators who opposed his choices. For protocol reasons, Republican Senate leaders -- then, and now -- have not sought to sidestep the home-district senator.

(In most cases involving Blunt, a deal was struck, the objecting senator backed off, and the nominee was appointed.)

Bray is declining to talk about Kanzler, but she did say Saturday that a number of her district residents have been chosen by the governor for various posts, and that she and her staff are dealing with those matters. Bray is in her second term in the Senate, and will be term-limited out after the 2010 election.

Kanzler, however, is talking. He says that Bray's office "initially set up an appointment to meet with me in late March, but then cancelled. I spoke with her office four or five times after that to reschedule; however, she never returned my calls and her office never rescheduled the meeting.

"Finally, I heard from the Governor's office that Sen. Bray would not allow the nomination, would not meet with me, and would not say why,'' Kanzler said. "Consequently, there is no way for my nomination to proceed."

The governor's staff has yet to respond with a comment.

But Kanzler said, "It's rather disheartening when your own senator refuses a constituent even the opportunity to speak, but in this instance, by doing so she is refusing to allow the Senate to even consider my nomination without any explanation or reason."

Kanzler added that he was talking about the matter because he really wanted to serve on the county Election Board. Nixon is in the midst of replacing members on the urban and suburban election boards around the state that he controls. By law, those four-person boards are equally split between the parties. One member of the governor's party is named chairman, and a member of the opposing party is the secretary.

"I am a lawyer, a profession which is very helpful on this board,'' Kanzler said. "I am also a minister, which hopefully says something about my commitment to people and fairness."

In any case, any discussion of Kanzler's qualifications -- pro or con -- is probably moot. Another Republican will likely now be chosen to sit on the St. Louis County Election Board.

The chief question will be whether Nixon selects that GOP nominee from a different state Senate district.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.