Touting her rural Missouri upbringing and her tenure as Jackson County prosecutor, Jean Peters Baker on Wednesday announced that she wants to be the next chairwoman for the Missouri Democratic Party.
“As political cycles seem to shorten, the party needs to begin the work of designing strategy and recruiting candidates up and down the ballot in 2020,” Peters Baker said in a message on Twitter announcing her intentions.
Peters Baker was appointed Jackson County Prosecutor in May 2011 and elected to the position in November 2012.
If picked to lead the state party, Peters Baker would continue as prosecutor. She said she plans to seek re-election to the post in two years.
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The election for Democratic chair will be held Dec. 1 when the statewide party meets in Jefferson City. Several other Democrats also have announced their interest in the volunteer position.
“Jean Peters Baker is extraordinarily tough and talented,” said Roy Temple, former chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party. “I believe the Missouri Democratic Party is fortunate that she is willing to consider serving as its chair during these very challenging times.”
As state party chair, Peters Baker would be responsible for recruiting candidates, raising money and helping to develop the party’s message.
Republicans defeated Democrats in several statewide races in the most recent general election.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill lost her re-election bid to first-term Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley.
“If you look at vote totals, Josh Hawley captured 51.5 percent,” Peters Baker said in an interview Wednesday. “I don’t know when that was determined to be a landslide, but it wasn’t.”
“I personally believe highly in divided government. I believe that works. That is how the framers of this country designed our system,” she said. “It requires individuals to come together to reach more consensus and compromise on issues that Missourians daily face.”
Earlier this month, Peters Baker announced that her office will stop prosecuting most marijuana possession cases.
Her office successfully challenged Jackson County Executive Frank White over control of the troubled Jackson County Detention Center.
She also won the ability to appoint a leader to the county’s anti-drug tax agency known as COMBAT.
“I will not run away from an issue that is hard,” Peters Baker said.
Born and raised in rural Osage County, Peters Baker graduated from Columbia College in Columbia, Mo. She later earned a master’s degree in public administration and a law degree from the University of Missouri- Columbia.
She was hired as an assistant Jackson County prosecutor by Claire McCaskill, the only other woman to serve in that role.
In 2010, Peters Baker was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives. Peters Baker held that seat until she was appointed to prosecutor, replacing Jim Kanatzar.
“I have deep ties to rural communities, proven urban leadership, the willingness to find consensus and the strength to do what will be necessary to get Democrats winning elections again,” Peters Baker said in a statement. “It can be done.”