Public opinion polls indicate that this election cycle favors Republicans. Republicans in the Missouri House hope to build on their majority while Democrats work hard to increase their numbers in the chamber.
Republicans hold an 88-to-73 majority in the Missouri House with two vacancies. Majority Floor Leader Steven Tilley, a Republican from Perryville, is confident, believing he’ll be the next Speaker of the House as Republicans add to their majority.
“Yes, I do,” Tilley responds. “My hope is to have a very strong majority in the Missouri House, but I certainly look forward to working with like-minded Democrats who will not be just told what to do by their party, but will actually do what they think is best for the state. I look forward to January.”
In fact, Tilley tells the Missourinet he can’t envision a scenario in which Republicans lose control of the House. Tilley says that if that were to happen, he would decline to be Minority Floor Leader, because he failed to retain control of the chamber. Tilley predicts Republicans will benefit from the momentum the party seems to be building nationally. He projects the total of 88 Republican seats in the 163-member House will swell to around 92, perhaps more. That would insure Tilley’s rise to Speaker and give him incredible power over legislation the next two years.
Not so long ago, this seemed a perfect election cycle for Democrats to pick up seats in the House and, perhaps, even to return to the majority. Republicans took the House by force in the 2002 elections, securing a 90-73 majority and giving Republicans control of both chambers in the state legislature for the first time since 1948. Democrats began making incremental gains in the 2006 election, picking up five seats. 2008 proved a disappointment, but still the party gained another three seats. Democrats would need to secure the one vacancy they held and gain eight seats Tuesday to return to power in the House.
Term limits have created 67 open seats in the House. Republicans must defend 42 seats; Democrats 25.
It is a testimony to how political fortunes can change that the confident talk among Missouri Democrats after the 2008 elections that swept Barack Obama into the presidency and secured large majorities for Democrats in Congress in Washington, D. C. has given way to cautious assessments about the party’s chances in the state legislative races this year.
Though House Democrats have eaten into the Republican majority the last couple of election cycles, Rep. Mike Talboy, a Democrat from Kansas City who chairs the Missouri House Democratic Campaign Committee, declines to predict that his party will take back control.
“That’s going to be up to the voters,” Talboy tells the Missourinet. “I don’t try to make a living in prognosticating outcomes like that. But I think that we will have a very good effort over the last seven days. I’ve been proud of the program that we’ve run.”
Which party controls the House matters. The House traditionally is a much more partisan body than the Missouri Senate. The party in control has the power to decide what legislation comes to the floor for debate and what legislation quietly dies during a legislative session. The House Speaker exercises control through the appointment of committee chairman and through the assignment of legislation to committees. The Majority Floor Leader not only controls the flow of legislation to the floor for debate, but how long an issue might be debated. The majority party also crafts the rules state representatives must follow during the session.