The latest lawmaker to leave the Missouri House Democratic caucus says he was being punished for votes, but his former caucus colleagues say they couldn’t trust him.
Representative Keith English (Florissant) told Missourinet he has had a speech written for “weeks” to announce his decision to leave the Democratic party and become an Independent.
He said he has been punished by his former caucus ever since casting the lone Democrat vote to overturn Governor Nixon’s veto of an income tax cut bill last year. That began, he said, with being removed from committees by the House Democrat leadership.
“That carried on through the summer when I was asked by the minority leader’s [Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis City] office if I wanted to sit on committees and I said ‘yes,’ and there was multiple committees that multiple people from the Democratic Caucus had sat on. I didn’t get that opportunity to sit on any committees,” English said.
House Democrats say English was untrustworthy and had broken caucus rules, including one that prevents taking any “perks” from the Republican majority, such as office space. English has accepted an office on the third floor of the Capitol, just outside the House Chamber.
Representative Jeremy LaFaver (D-Kansas City) told Missourinet English’s move was not a surprise and said the caucus was considering kicking him out anyway.
“Some people said that we’re losing a member of the Democratic caucus and my statement is, ‘You can’t lose something that was never a part of your team anyway,'” LaFaver said.
In a statement, Hummel denies that the caucus’ issues with English stem from him, “sometimes voting with the other political party.”
Hummel wrote, “As a caucus, we recognize and respect our differences of opinion and encourage members to vote their consciences and their districts. Rather, the distrust in Representative English stems from the fact that he hasn’t always been honest about his intentions to side with Republicans on issues of importance to House Democrats.”
Hummel closed his statement by implying that English won’t win re-election in his district now that he’s switched parties. “House Democrats wish him nothing but the best during his final term as state representative,” Hummel wrote. English is only his in second term and could run again in 2016.
English thinks he’ll be “fine” running as an Independent, and said he has had success doing so in local races before running for the House.
The Legislative Black Caucus also issued a statement accusing English of making “racially charged” statements, including a Twitter post suggesting that Ferguson protesters need to follow a map to Mexico, and saying he made a comment Monday in the House Democratic Caucus that “Michael Brown ‘should have known not to be in the street.'”
English told Missourinet he would not comment on what was said in caucus except to say that it should stay in caucus.
He said he is asking the House Republican Majority to put him on committees and said he hopes to caucus, “where the issues come up.” He also expects to get a different seat on the House Floor. His current desk is among House Democrats.
House Speaker John Diehl, Junior (R-Town and Country), issued a statement of his own calling English a, “friend and colleague who has proven time and time again that he will put partisan politics aside to vote his conscience and his district.”
Diehl continued, “It was disappointing to see him punished by his caucus for supporting a tax cut that is in the best interests of the people he was elected to serve. By cutting him out of the process, his own caucus not only stifled his voice, but all the voices of the families and businesses in his district.
As Speaker of the House I am committed to working with all 163 members of the House regardless of party affiliation. I am ready and willing to work with Rep. English to ensure he is an active and effective participant in the legislative process so that the people of his district will continue to have capable representation here in the State Capitol.”