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GOP taps legislative leaders for response to Nixon's address

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 11, 2012 - The Missouri Republican Party has just announced that state House Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones, R-Eureka, and Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, have been tapped to deliver the GOP's response to Gov. Jay Nixon's State of the State address Tuesday.

Their response will be pre-recorded, a party spokesman said. That means Jones and Schaefer will tape their response before Nixon has delivered his address. His expected chief topics: jobs and the state's economy.

The choice of Jones and Schaefer breaks the tradition of featuring a potential gubernatorial candidate of the governor's opposing party.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican, had delivered the GOP response ever since Nixon, a Democrat, took office in 2009. Kinder, of course, had been expected to challenge Nixon this fall, until embarrassing personal matters intervened.

This year's GOP choices of Jones, tapped to be the next state House speaker as of January 2013, and Schaefer -- who's up for re-election this fall -- may be intended to highlight potential rising stars within the Republican ranks.

But their choice also underscores the state Republican Party's problem in coming up with strong or well-known statewide candidates for this fall's ballot, an avenue often used to select speakers for the official response to the governor's highest profile address of the year.

Current House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, had arguably been the party's hottest star for the future -- until he unexpectedly dropped his 2012 bid for lieutenant governor, citing his pending divorce. And wealthy St. Louis area businessman Dave Spence, who is running for governor, is facing embarrassing headlines over his college degree.

Kinder now is seeking re-election and faces a challenge from a fellow Republican, state Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah. And a crowd of Republicans is jockeying for secretary of state since Democratic incumbent Robin Carnahan chose not to seek a third term.

No Republican has yet announced a bid for attorney general, challenging Democratic incumbent Chris Koster. State Rep. Cole McNary, R-Chesterfield, is challenging state Treasurer Clint Zweifel, a Democrat.

A party spokesman said the duo of Jones and Schaeffer also represents the Republican decision to focus this year on legislation, particularly since the GOP has huge majorities in the state House and Senate.

Republican leaders already have held a hearing this week on several business-related issues, some of which could set up an early confrontation with Nixon.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, for example, is pressing for changes in the state's anti-discrimination laws, which the Chamber claims have made it too easy for employees to sue employers. Nixon vetoed such a measure last session.

Don't be surprised if Jones and Schaefer bring up the subject.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.