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Thursday, September 27, 2007


Several state representatives assumed new leadership roles on Sept. 12 to replace House members who moved on or moved up.

The full House chose state Rep. Bryan Pratt, R-Blue Springs, as speaker pro tem, the chamber’s No. 2 post. Pratt replaces Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles, who resigned from the House this summer to become a lobbyist.

The House Republican Caucus chose state Rep. Steve Tilley of Perryville as majority leader to replace Tom Dempsey of St. Charles, who recently was elected to the Senate.

State Rep. Paul LeVota of Independence officially took over as minority leader, while state Rep. J.C. Kuessner of Eminence assumed LeVota’s old job as assistant minority leader. The House Democratic leadership shuffle was prompted when state Rep. Jeff Harris of Columbia announced he would step down as minority leader to pursue the Democratic nomination for attorney general in 2008. Harris will retain his House for the remainder of his term.

House Republicans also selected state Rep. Ron Richard of Joplin as the heir apparent to term-limited House Speaker Rod Jetton of Marble Hill. Whether Richard ever actually becomes speaker, however, is contingent on a number of factors: First, Richard must win re-election in 2008. Second, Republicans must maintain their House majority in the next year’s elections. And third, Richard must maintain the support of at least 82 House members over the next 16 months until the actual speaker’s election takes place in January 2009.

At least one previous speaker-designee failed to actually get the job. In 1995, House Democrats, then in the majority, chose Sam Leake to replace departing speaker Bob Griffin. By the time of the official vote, however, Leake lost support and Steve Gaw was elected speaker.

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