Part One: 10 of the Most Fascinating People of 2015
- St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay
No politician moved the needle more in 2015 than St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. After leading on the issue of equality in marriage last year, Slay led on a host of public policy issues this year.
He was at the front of the ban the box movement spearheaded by ally Senator Jamilah Nasheed, led the fight to raise the minimum wage to an eye popping $15/hour – taking the fight all the way to the courts, promoting a new chief of staff after longtime aide Jeff Rainford left, and ended the year with the Board of Aldermen approving his plans for a new billion dollar football stadium to be built on an undeveloped section of the waterfront, and welcoming in Syrian refugees to the city. Whether you agree with him on all or none of these issues, there is no more formidable politician in the state than the Mayor.
- Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia
In his bid for the Republican attorney general nomination, Schaefer became an incredibly prominent figure in the Missouri legislature with his hardline stances and brute force leadership on multiple issues. While his position as the Senate Appropriations Committee chair grants him a great deal of power in the Senate, he received national attention for his role as the chair of the Sanctity of Life Committee after the allegations against Planned Parenthood became public.
His role in stopping abortion procedures at the Columbia Planned Parenthood affiliate by fighting the University of Missouri’s granting of privileges to an abortion doctor, and his continued fight against the embattled organization have made him a champion of anti-abortion groups, a target for pro-abortion groups, and in the process, one of the most powerful conservatives in the General Assembly.
- Former United States Senator John Danforth
It has been such a turbulent year in Missouri politics, but you cannot talk about 2015 without remembering the loss of Auditor Tom Schweich. Out of that tragedy came Danforth’s reemergence into politics.
Danforth was a big supporter of Schweich and gave a politically charged eulogy at his funeral that called for cleaner, more positive politics. Out of his call, Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, entered statewide politics and is now running for lt. governor. Danforth’s words are injected anytime there is a story on negative politics.
- David Steelman
Steelman was involved in several of the biggest stories in the state. He spoke highly of Schweich while denouncing some in the political consultant class. Later in the year, he and his wife former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman were two of the earliest and most high profile supporters of Eric Greitens gubernatorial campaign.
However, Steelman was truly placed in the spotlight early in 2015 when he was appointed to the University of Missouri Board of Curators. He would serve during one of the most turbulent years in the history of the university. He ended up being one of the only people affiliated with the system with any practical sense of state politics, and if the university rebounds its image, it will be largely due to him.
- Former House Speaker John Diehl
John Diehl was a force of nature. He led the congressional redistricting efforts, was the force behind the first tax cut in decades, safe guarded the opportunity to keep the Rams in St. Louis, and led a host of other accomplishments.
He was a speaker who defined the legislative session while in office, and will still do so after leaving. The House Republican caucus endured a inner-party right-to-work fight after it passed the House for the first time, but it is likely the nature of his exit will lead to another wave of regulations on lobbying, campaign finance and increased safeguards for interns at the Capitol.
Jeff Roe began his career winning Missouri legislative campaigns, and this year he is running the presidential campaign for the frontrunner in the Iowa caucuses, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
- Lou Hamilton is the, now former, Chairman of the St. Louis Taxicab Commission. He has had the Uber issue dropped into his lap, and after over a year trying to compromise on background checks the issue is currently with the Mayor publicly announcing that he will not enforce the law, and the County Executive saying that he will. Pretty thankless gig that he has handled as well as anyone could have, and far far better than most. Hamilton resigned on December 21.
- Jake Hummel has one of the toughest jobs in Missouri politics, being House Minority Leader. Democratic caucuses throughout the country have taken a beating during the Obama administration, Missouri included. However, Hummel has balanced keeping his caucus together while extremists in the Republican party handed him one thing very few minority leaders ever have, a signature win. This victory came on the failure of right-to-work, an issue close to him, He also won near universal acclaim as the number two man at the Missouri AFL-CIO.