Up Close and Personal with Rep. Kirk Mathews
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – As the day draws nearer for the election of the next Majority Floor Leader, the Missouri Times reached out to the three candidates seeking that seat to ask them a few questions about why they’re running. Below are the responses from the final candidate, Rep. Kirk Mathews.
Missouri Times: If elected as the next majority floor leader, what qualities do you think you will bring to the table that will help you do the job effectively?
Mathews: I believe my experience in business and life has required me to make difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions. For 14 years I owned a healthcare company and employed over 100 physicians. Leading that organization was very similar to leading a caucus with 116 members. I’ll approach serving as majority floor leader with the same leadership style. I’ll continue to be approachable, a good listener, and work on complex issues quickly and articulate them well.
Missouri Times: What’s one strength that sets you apart from the other candidates?
Mathews: My experience in owning and managing my health care company taught me the importance of bringing a level-headed approach to difficult situations. Being a “people person” allows me the ability to maintain good relationships even through contentious debate and disagreement without necessarily compromising my principles. I think these characteristics are essential to serving our caucus in the majority floor leader role.
Missouri Times: If we’re asking about strengths, it only makes sense to ask about weaknesses. What would you describe as the one thing you wish you change during your time in the House, and why?
Mathews: I take this opportunity to serve in our supermajorities with a Republican governor very seriously. I believe we have a unique opportunity to move a conservative reform agenda forward in Missouri and I am very focused on winning elections so we can continue to pass that agenda. At times, I can get very passionate about the policies we, as a caucus, are pursuing and I need to take a minute to remember that incremental progress is still progress.
Missouri Times: This past session, tort reform, and labor took a major role in shaping the direction of legislation. What topics do you see as the next big issues for Missouri, and how do you think you can help advance them in the House? What will be the top priorities in 2018?
Mathews: The voters sent a clear message in 2016 that they want conservative reforms to be front and center of Missouri state government. I don’t think we are finished with either tort reform or labor reform. Regarding tort reform, we will continue to work on venue and punitive damages and I think we will again address prevailing wage to modernize Missouri’s antiquated labor environment. I also believe a big priority will be looking at our tax code and working to create a simpler and fairer tax system for Missourians.
Missouri Times: What do you think will be the most difficult part of the job of serving as the majority floor leader?
Mathews: We have a large caucus full of great members with great ideas. My job is to help members get their agenda items, not only through the House but onto the Governor’s desk and into law. I am passionate about learning about my fellow members’ districts and priorities and look forward to putting forward a comprehensive, caucus-driven agenda of conservative reforms in 2018 and 2019.
Missouri Times: Ethics reform has continued to be a hot topic for the legislature, do you think it will appear again? Is there a middle ground that might be found to bring meaningful reform to Missouri, or is this issue doomed to continue stalling in the General Assembly? Do you believe enough has been done?
Mathews: For the last couple of sessions, the House has held a different view of ethics reform than the Senate. We have passed bills that the Senate either killed or significantly changed. I believe that perhaps some intentional, up-front communications and negotiations with the Senate could lead to the discovery of some acceptable middle ground.
Missouri Times: How does the House majority continue building on their success and maintain their numbers in the next election cycles?
Mathews: By sticking with conservative principles and continuing to approach our campaign efforts as a team. The next couple of election cycles are going to present challenges. But I believe that the conservative principles of free markets, less government, and less regulation are proving to be the path to prosperity in our state and are becoming more ingrained in the psyche of the electorate. With the best campaign organization in the state led by Robert Knodell, I am confident we will continue our electoral successes in 2018.
Missouri Times: What made you decide to get into politics in the first place, and what has been the hardest lesson to learn since entering the House? How has this role of serving as a state representative changed you?
Mathews: In my lifetime, the political “center” has moved decidedly to the left. And in the last 25 years, the rate of that change has increased dramatically. As a grandfather, I was concerned that when my grandchildren reached my age, the former “center” would be way out of sight. So I decided to try and change that by running for office.
The hardest lessons I have learned in the House is that passing most good legislation is a war of incrementalism. Not much happens really fast (the way the Founders envisioned). But this process has made me more determined. Seeing the inefficiency and overreach of government has cemented my resolve to try and effect change.
Missouri Times: What’s one piece of advice you would offer to a freshman legislator or someone considering running for the House?
Mathews: Know what you stand for and be yourself. Running for office is hard, but it’s also simple. If you stick to the fundamentals and work as hard as you can, you’ll be satisfied with the outcome.
Missouri Times: What do you consider to be your biggest personal victory as a legislator and why?
Mathews: I really don’t think in terms of personal victories. I am sure many would expect my “personal victory” to be passing the TNC bill, also known as the Uber Bill. But while I am very proud of that legislation, that bill doesn’t pass without a huge team effort and it is truly a victory for the people of Missouri. Sen. Bob Onder, Speaker Richardson, David Willis and a host of others all played a huge role. And that is the essence of why I want to be Floor Leader. This is a team sport and effective leadership will coalesce the team to achieve a lot of significant victories for the people of this state.
Missouri Times: If you could have a one-on-one conversation with your voters, what’s the one thing you want them to know about you?
Mathews: Well, I actually do have lots of one-on-one conversations with voters and I hope they come away knowing I am one of them… just a regular guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously, who takes his responsibility VERY seriously, and really enjoys building durable and meaningful relationships along the way.
We also asked the representatives to take part in a “rapid fire” round of questioning, where we ask questions that are a little bit more fun in nature.
Favorite food: Breakfast foods – eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy… at any time of day.
Favorite TV show: College Game Day
Favorite holiday: Christmas
Least favorite household chore: Dusting
How do you like to relax? Singing, either at home with my daughter or in Jeff City with “Piano Man” Mike Michelson
Which is easier: whipping votes or wrangling kids? Whipping votes… hands down.
If you could time and space travel, where would you go? Revolutionary-War-era Pennsylvania
If you won the Missouri Lottery, what would you do with it? I would make sure my kids and grandkids are provided for and then build a building for my church. We meet at Eureka High School and need a new building.
Favorite color: “Bearcat” Green (Northwest Missouri State Bearcats…defending nat’l champs in both football and basketball!)
Pepsi or Coke: Pepsi
Favorite automobile brand: Acura
Favorite sports team: Right now?… the Eureka Athletic Association 8-year-old Blazers softball team, starring my granddaughter Reagan
Favorite movie: The Three Amigos
Favorite book: James
Dog or cat: Dog
Favorite ice cream flavor: Chocolate Ripple