Democrats in the Missouri House have elected a new leader, promoting from within. And Democrats will expect much more from him than just being the voice of the loyal opposition during the legislation session next year.
Rep. Paul LeVota (D-Independence) was first elected to the House in 2002. He became assistant minority leader in November 2004. LeVota served under Rep. Jeff Harris (D-Columbia) who is leaving the post to run for Attorney General. LeVota says there won’t be much of a change in style when he takes over for Harris, but admits he’s more of a behind-the-scenes guy than Harris.
One thing LeVota doesn’t want to change: gains in the House. Democrats gained five seats under Harris in the 2006 elections. LeVota wants to add to that total.
The Minority Leader is expected to push the priorities of his party during legislative sessions, but perhaps more important is the work of a Minority Leader when the legislature isn’t in session. That’s when the campaigning begins in earnest. The Minority Leader leads the effort to recruit candidates and help them in their campaigns. He raises money and helps distribute it, he gives advice to candidates and he shapes the agenda. If successful, he helps his party gain seats. If really successful, he helps his party regain the majority.
LeVota has a tall order ahead. Democrats still are very much in the minority in the House. They hold 71 seats. Republicans have 92. LeVota says the key to Democrats taking back the House will be eight seats that will be open in the House, making them more competitive than seats in which the minority party has to defeat an entrenched incumbent.