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Missouri Republicans to hold presidential straw poll during Lincoln Days

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Missouri Republican activists will signal their first 2016 presidential preferences by participating  in a straw poll this weekend during the party’s annual Lincoln Days festivities.

This year, the event has been renamed “Reagan-Lincoln Days’’ in honor of Ronald Reagan, who was president in the 1980s.

The unscientific straw poll is among the activities aimed at energizing the hundreds of party faithful expected to attend the three-day event in Kansas City.

Outgoing state party chairman Ed Martin said there will be at least two presidential straw polls – one among the 68 members of the state GOP committee, and another among the registered Lincoln Days attendees.

The votes presumably will be cast before one potential GOP contender – former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania – takes to the stage at Saturday night’s banquet.  Santorum, a social conservative, won Missouri’s nonbinding 2012 Republican presidential primary.

Also scheduled to speak during the weekend is current U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who is on many GOP short lists as a potential vice presidential running mate.

Missouri's already heated Republican contest for governor also might be a straw-poll topic, although Martin said no decision had yet to be made. The two best-known announced Republicans contenders are state Auditor Tom Schweich and former state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway.

The hottest issue during the weekend, however, is likely to be Saturday’s election of a new state party chairman.  John Hancock, a former state legislator from St. Louis County and now a GOP consultant, is competing against party activists Nick Myers of Neosho and Eddy Justice of Poplar Bluff.

Myers is the Republican chairman in Newton County, while Justice heads up Republicans in Butler County and in the 8th congressional district. The decision will be up to the state party's 68-member executive committee.

Martin had been expected to seek re-election until a few weeks ago, when he announced that he will be the new president of the Eagle Forum, a nationally known conservative group founded by Phyllis Schlafly.

Martin says he already has started his new job but remains state party chairman as well until the state GOP’s executive committee chooses his successor.

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.

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