Crowded field chases Missouri lieutenant governor's job

8 months 3 days 23 hours ago July 18, 2016 Jul 18, 2016 Monday, July 18 2016 Monday, July 18, 2016 3:59:20 PM CDT in News
By: The Associated Press

KANSAS CITY (AP) — Six candidates, including a former four-term congressman, are vying to advance from their party's primaries in hopes of becoming Missouri's next lieutenant governor and elevating the office often seen as having the least cachet in elected state government.

Three Democrats and three Republicans are seeking their parties' nominations for the $86,000-a-year job during the Aug. 2 primary. Libertarian Steven Hedrick of Warrensburg is running unopposed. The current three-term officeholder, Republican Peter Kinder, is running for governor.

The field's most recognizable name is former U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, son of former governor Mel Carnahan, who died in a plane crash in 2000 while campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat he posthumously won. Other Democrats include St. Louis pastor and state lawmaker Tommie Pierson Sr. and former Kansas City-area teacher Winston Apple, a singer-songwriter and activist.

On the Republican side, the candidates are cattle farmer, former sheriff and state Sen. Mike Parson of Bolivar, Kansas City lawyer Bev Randles and former teacher Arnie Dienoff from the St. Louis area.

Many of the hopefuls concede the job lacks a high profile, but its potential significance is unmistakable: The lieutenant governor fills in when the governor is out of the state or incapacitated. And if the governor dies, quits or is ousted, the lieutenant governor typically closes out the term, which happened most recently in 2000, when Democrat Roger Wilson finished Carnahan's term.

The lieutenant governor also serves as the state senate's president and on boards and commissions involving seniors, veterans, tourism and economic development.

Carnahan said the office is an important part of state government, "and I feel it's a way I can really contribute at a time when the state has some big challenges."

Carnahan said he would press for expanded Medicaid access and for remedies to what he calls the state's "badly crumbling infrastructure," pointing to his years serving on the U.S. House's transportation and infrastructure committee as an asset.

Pierson, a pastor who worked for more than three decades at a General Motors assembly plant, often as a union representative, has been a state representative since 2011.

"If ever I'm going to run for statewide office, the time is now," he said of the open seat, adding that he's eager to "bring unity to this state. We have a divided state — race, class, party and a number of other things. I would like to be able to influence legislation that brings us together."

Apple, who ran unsuccessfully for the state House in 2014, said he was encouraged to run by people who considered him a populist similar to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

"There's a populist uprising underway that could blossom into a revolution, and I'm running to be part of that," said Apple, 67, founder of the nonpartisan Populists in Action political action committee. "We will see no progress until we elect a populist majority, and no one will be more excited if I win in November."

On the Republican side, Parson is a 60-year-old Army veteran, former Pope County sheriff and a six-year state senator. He has pledged to fight for veterans, seniors, the tourism industry and blue-collar folks "driving nails through shingles, pouring concrete or being nurses."

Regarding environmental regulations and agriculture, "the No. 1 issue facing Missourians is the overreach of the federal government, and I think we can take a much more active role really pushing back," he said.

Randles, whose husband, Bill, unsuccessfully sought the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2012, said she would use the office to promote pro-business causes, such as lower taxes, fighting "suffocating" federal regulations and tort reform.

Such issues require "someone who understands the nuances of the law," she said. "The laws are being enacted and forced upon us by liberal lawmakers and bureaucrats. We need conservatives to unwind these things."

Dienoff, whose campaign does not have a website, could not be reached.

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