January 31, 2015

Schweich enters 2016 race for Missouri governor

State Auditor Tom Schweich has announced he is challenging former Missouri House Speaker and U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway for the Republican nomination for Missouri governor in 2016.

State Auditor Tom Schweich

State Auditor Tom Schweich

St. Louis Public Radio’s Joe Mannies reported his announcement on Twitter.

His announcement ends months of speculation about his political future. Schweich has been viewed for some time as a likely candidate for Governor but had declined to announce his plans until after the November, 2014 election.

He becomes the second Republican to declare candidacy for the 2016 governor’s race after Hanaway. Each have more than $1-million in their respective campaign funds. The only Democrat to announce candidacy for governor is Attorney General Chris Koster, who as of October listed more than $2.6-million on hand.

Schweich has been auditor since 2010 and won his second term in that office last year without Democratic opposition.

In recent years he has been credited as running an efficient and effective auditor’s office, but has also been criticized by Democrats for his legal challenges against Governor Nixon.

Hanaway preempted Schweich’s announcement by issuing a statement criticizing him for setting up a Republican primary for governor in 2016, saying primaries, “have repeatedly cost the Republican Party statewide elections.”

House Committee hears voter photo ID arguments

This year’s version of voter photo identification legislation has been debated in a House committee.

Representative Tony Dugger (R-Hartville)

Representative Tony Dugger (R-Hartville)

Representative Tony Dugger (R-Hartville) proposes requiring a person seeking to vote in Missouri to present one among certain forms of photo ID, including unexpired Missouri driver’s or nondriver’s licenses, a document with the individual’s name and photograph, or any unexpired armed services ID with a photo.

His bill would allow those who cannot pay for a birth certificate or other documentation needed to get such an ID, those with religious objections, or those born before 1950, to cast a provisional ballot. That ballot would only be counted if the voter returns with a sufficient form of identification within three days after the election.

Voter photo ID proposals have been offered in the Missouri legislature for a decade. Opponents say they are an attempt to disenfranchise voting groups that often lean Democratic, including students and minorities, who are less likely to meet the ID requirements it would establish.

Dugger said he is not trying to keep anyone who is eligible to vote from doing so. He told the House Committee on Elections he just wants to protect Missouri elections.

“I am 100-percent sure that voter impersonation fraud is taking place in the state of Missouri

and I think this photo ID is the only way that we can fix it,” Dugger said.

Representative Clem Smith (D-St. Louis County) told Dugger the fact that the bill hasn’t passed in ten years of attempts should tell him something.

“I would think in ten years you would have had the streets in turmoil, people demonstrating and protesting about this issue if it was major issue, which it’s really a non-issue,” Smith told Dugger. “It’s just a hindrance for me to vote.”

Opponents maintain there has been no proof that voter identification fraud has occurred in Missouri, but Dugger told the committee he found one such case. He said a woman learned that someone had already voted in her name in the November 2012, and that prevented her from voting in that election.

Representative Stacey Newman (D-Richmond Heights) was skeptical.

“Was that case documented? Was that case prosecuted?” Newman asked.

Dugger told Newman the lack of documented cases of fraud is not evidence of a lack of fraud, but of the difficulty in investigating it.

“Tell me how you’re going to prosecute that case,” Dugger responded. “How are you going to track down that voter who came in with that material?”

Dugger is proposing HB 30 which would lay out in statute how photo ID would be implemented in Missouri, and HJR 1, which would ask Missouri voters to allow that language to become law. If the latter were to make it to voters and be rejected, the photo ID language of HB 30 would be null.

Legislators want to make changing Missouri’s Constitution harder

Three state House Republicans are offering proposals that would make it harder to change Missouri’s Constitution.

Representative Scott Fitzpatrick (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Scott Fitzpatrick (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Right now an initiative petition must receive the signatures of at least 8-percent of the voters in six of Missouri’s eight Congressional districts in order to be put on a ballot. Representative Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) has proposed increasing the requirement to 15-percent.

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have a higher bar on amending the Constitution,” Fitzpatrick told Missourinet.

He thinks the initiative petition process doesn’t offer enough review of a measure.

“You don’t have that committee process and the opportunity for public testimony in the same manner as you would in the legislature,” said Fitzpatrick. He adds, if a change is made and a problem is found, it could take months or years for another ballot proposal to be passed to fix it.

Fitzpatrick said if he thought he would get enough support, he would propose eliminating Missouri’s initiative petition process.

Representative Elijah Haahr (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Elijah Haahr (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Once on the ballot an amendment currently requires a simple majority – more than half the votes cast – to pass. Representative Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield) has proposed a bill that would require a 60-percent majority.

“In the last decade we’ve seen a recent uptick in constitutional amendments, and I think we need to do something to kinda protect the sacredness of the document,” Haahr said. “We don’t necessarily want just a glorified statute code. We actually want an umbrella document that is limited and specific to constitutional principles supported by the overwhelming will of Missouri citizens.”

Representative Linda Black (R-Park Hills) wants to go even further in the cases of amendments that would impact hunting, fishing, wildlife or forestry, and require two-thirds of voters’ approval for those to pass.

“That’s to prevent any special interest groups that are funded nationally from coming into Missouri and changing our way of living and our rich tradition of sportsman activities,” Black said.

Representative Linda Black (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Linda Black (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

She thinks Missourians might be alright with elevating such issues to a higher standard than others.

“I think the people would put somewhat of a higher importance on that than other issues, but certainly job creation, education, transportation needs; those things are essential and important. Perhaps that is a valid question of is that one to garner a two-thirds majority requirement?”

Black’s and Fitzpatrick’s proposals would go to voters if approved by the legislature. All three have been pre-filed for the session that begins two weeks from Wednesday.

With no ’16 run, MO Speaker uses campaign chest for other GOPers

When Tim Jones announced he would not run for a statewide office in the 2016 campaign cycle, his campaign committee had more than $993-thousand dollars. Jones told Missourinet he won’t be letting that campaign money lie dormant.

Outgoing House Speaker Tim Jones (left) stands among the 118-member House Republican supermajority he says his donations helped elect, as incoming House Speaker John Diehl addresses the media.  (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Outgoing House Speaker Tim Jones (left) stands among the 118-member House Republican supermajority he says his donations helped elect, as incoming House Speaker John Diehl addresses the media. (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“When my plans started solidifying in October and I realized that I might not need my campaign funds for the immediate future for myself, I began giving more money away again,” Jones said. “I believe I contributed more than 20-, 25-thousand dollars for this election cycle and largely was successful with the candidates I supported.”

The Missouri Ethics Commission shows Missourians for Tim Jones on October 22 contributed $10,500 to Representative Rick Stream’s campaign for St. Louis County Executive, which Stream narrowly lost, and on November 1, donated $7,500 to the House Republican Campaign Committee.

“I am absolutely going to continue doing what I’ve already done the last eight years with the funds that I’ve worked so hard to raise for conservative causes and conservative candidates,” said Jones. “I’m going to continue to support people.”

He might not donate it all, though.

“I will likely have some reserve left for I will keep for a potential run in the future, although I have no plans to run at this time in 2018 or beyond, but you never know how time and the passage of years changes perspective on things,” said Jones.

Jones could not seek another term in the House due to term limits.

Missouri lawmaker stands by post-election party switch

The state representative who switched parties after last week’s election expects to be more effective the next two years.

Representative Linda Black (at right of center, in glasses) stands with the Republican caucus shortly after announcing she was switching from the Democrat to the Republican party.  (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Linda Black (at right of center, in glasses) stands with the Republican House caucus shortly after announcing she was switching from the Democrat to the Republican party. (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Linda Black has been elected to her final term as a state representative from Desloge, having won all four elections as a Democrat. A week ago this morning she announced she is now a Republican. She became the 118th member of the dominant House Republican caucus.

Black says she doesn’t regret her move, and says she’s received a lot of support.

“Like Ronald Reagan said years ago, he didn’t leave the party, the party left him,” says Black. “I think a lot of people are feeling that way after six years of President Obama. They don’t identify with his agenda and our country is in disarray.”

She says she switched parties because her beliefs on issues like abortion and gun control don’t mesh with those of the Democratic party, but she also thinks she can have more impact now.

“I just look forward to the next two years now and I think that I’ll be much more effective as a representative, which will benefit my district,” says Black.

Black says she has been supported by constituents in her decision to change parties.

“I can’t tell you the overwhelming amount of people that tell me they wish I wasn’t a Democrat because my voting record aligns with their beliefs but they’ve never voted for a Democrat,” says Black.

Her decision has earned sharp criticism from her former floor leader in the House, however.

The House Minority Leader says Black lied to voters

House Minority Leader Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis City) offered several amendments Tuesday attempting to plug Medicaid expansion back into the House's FY 2014 budget proposal.

House Minority Leader Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis City)

Representative Jacob Hummel (D-St. Louis) says he didn’t know about her switch until he saw it reported on social media.

“Never got a phone call from her, never got the courtesy of being told that to my face, which was a little upsetting,” says Hummel.

He accuses her of lying to the voters in St. Francois County.

“She lied to them with a straight face, went to the polls knowing she was going to switch. If I were them I’d be very upset,” says Hummel. “If she wanted to run as a Republican she could have done it back then or at least let them know that she was going to.”

Black says she hadn’t made the decision to change parties before the election.

“I wish maybe this had happened before filing or sometime during the summer or however that would have happened, but the timing that happened seemed to be where it naturally fell,” says Black. She says she woke up the morning after the election, “looked at what happened nationally and sat and thought about, ‘Where am I going to be in that Democrat minority?’ I know where that would have been; the minority of the minority.”

Black says Hummel remains a good friend of hers, but in response to his criticism, she notes that her stance on the issues that led to her switch hasn’t changed.

“Jake and I, we part ways on social, moral convictions. He came in as a pro-life Democrat and now is voting pro-choice. I’ve remained consistent,” says Black.

Black says she will pursue a bill to provide more information to a woman considering an abortion about her pregnancy, and will support the “sanctity of marriage” and gun rights.

She says she doesn’t know yet what her political future will be beyond the end of her time in the House in two years.