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Hanaway named Missouri Republican of the Year to honor her past and possible future

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 20, 2012 - Catherine Hanaway hasn't held elective office for seven years, when she stepped down in January 2005 as the first Republican speaker of the Missouri House in four decades -- and the first woman Missouri speaker ever.

But Missouri Republican leaders haven't forgotten her central role in recruiting the candidates in 2002 who helped put the GOP in control of the Missouri legislature in 2003 -- and have kept it in the legislative drivers seat ever since.

So at Lincoln Days, Hanaway was honored with the state party's Missouri Republican of the Year award. "It's time we recognize and honor her service to our party," said Eric Zahnd, the outgoing president of the Missouri Association of Republicans, which chose her for the annual award.

Hanaway left office after losing a statewide bid for secretary of state in 2004 to Democrat Robin Carnahan.  President George W. Bush then appointed Hanaway, a lawyer, to serve as the U.S. attorney for eastern Missouri, a post she held until 2009.

She now is a partner in the St. Louis office of the Ashcroft Group, a law firm founded by former Missouri Gov. John Ashcroft. Hanaway, who lives in St. Louis County, also has dabbled a little in politics, co-chairing the women's coalition for the 2010 campaign of now-U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who defeated Carnahan.

Singling Hanaway out for this year's statewide GOP honor may have been aimed, in part, at encouraging Hanaway -- now only 48 -- to consider returning to politics.

Hanaway recently lost about 70 pounds (using the same consultant who helped U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., shed pounds) and admits that she's thinking about running again for political office.

But she's circumspect as to when -- and for what.

"I would like to jump back into it at some point," said Hanaway in an interview. She emphasized she won't do so until her two children -- in elementary and junior high school -- are older.

In the meantime, she was clearly pleased with the Republican award. "I'm humbled and grateful," she said.

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.