Missouri Democrats on Saturday elected Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker to lead their party for the next two years.
The election took place at the Missouri Democratic Party’s annual meeting in Jefferson City.
“I’m really excited,” Baker said in an interview Saturday afternoon. “I think this is a time of opportunity where Democrats get to sit back and kind of take an assessment of ourselves.
“And what I want to bring to the Democratic Party is to be a uniter. To make sure that as many voices that want to be a part of the Democratic Party have an opportunity to be a part of it.”
Baker was appointed Jackson County Prosecutor in May 2011 and elected to the position in November 2012. She said she plans to continue as prosecutor and to seek re-election in two years.
As state party chairwoman, Baker’s duties include recruiting candidates, raising money and helping develop the party’s message. Republicans defeated Democrats in several statewide races in the Nov. 6 mid-term election, and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill was unseated by first-term Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley.
Baker said she wants all Missourians to know they are welcome in the party.
“As long as we share some very basic common values about what our party stands for — affordable health care, a well-funded public education system — then you can be a conservative or you can be a progressive or you can be in rural America or in an urban center or suburban area,” she said. “I want to make sure that every one of those people, if they have felt left out somehow by any political party, I want to welcome them to the Democratic Party.
“Their voice will be heard, and they are welcome under this great big tent.”
Born and raised in rural Osage County, 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 McCaskill, the only other woman to serve in that role.
In 2010, Baker was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives, a seat she held until she was appointed prosecutor, replacing Jim Kanatzar.
Baker knows she has her work cut out for her if Democrats are going to take back some of the seats they lost in last month’s election. But she says she’s up for the challenge.
“I see it as an opportunity in the state of Missouri,” she said, “to start building toward 2020.”