ST. LOUIS – With the departure of the popular Sen. Eric Schmitt from the 15th District Senate seat, the question in the district is who in the Republican primary with succeed him. Former Rep. Rick Stream and Rep. Andrew Koenig both have similar traits: fiscal and social conservatives that have strong voting records.
Schmitt says the district itself is one that not only values those ideals but plays an important role for one of the more conservative areas of St. Louis County, noting that many of the Republicans who represent that district play important roles in Senate leadership.
This year, he thinks both Stream and Koenig would do an excellent job taking over his seat.
“They are both two very qualified candidates,” he said. “I’ve worked with both of them on a number of issues. They’ll both do a great job, whoever gets elected.”
To win the election, both Koenig and Stream have both been attempting to do differentiate themselves from one another during the primary.
Stream, an elder statesman, has touted his leadership abilities. Stream served in the Navy for four years before moving onto working as a budget and project manager with the Department of Defense for almost 40 years. He then worked in the Missouri House of Representatives for four terms and in 2014, he narrowly lost a bid for St. Louis County Executive to Steve Stenger.
Before he was term-limited out of the House two years ago, Stream served as the Budget Chair for 2013 and 2014, one of the most influential positions in the House in regards to policy. Now, he believes the Senate is ready for another mature leader to fill in where Schmitt has left off. He believes he has the ability to gain the respect of everyone, even if he can’t get their votes.
“When I came back in 2015, and John Diehl invited me up to the dias, I got a standing ovation from everybody in the chamber, including all the Democrats,” Stream said. “I don’t say that to self-aggrandize, it’s just that they recognized… I was the person they could trust, that I could work with them, that I was an honest guy that tried to do the best to improve the quality of life for the people of Missouri and St. Louis County.”
Stream has continued his service in Meachem Park working in ministry with Kirkwood’s African-American community, namely with job skills training.
On the other hand, Koenig, who himself is term-limited, represents a younger, more energetic, but still family-focused conservatism that has trended in recent years. He and his wife, Brooke, have three kids and also foster twin toddlers. They even come to Jefferson City with him during session, a rarity among lawmakers, especially from St. Louis. For the last four years, they’ve rented a farmhouse near the Capitol.
He has spent most of his time since the end of session campaigning vigorously. The representative says he and his team have knocked on 20,000 doors for this election alone, and he has raised over $232,000, about a full $100,000 more than Stream. He’s also quick to point out that he is no novice when it comes to legislative activity. He’s served as the chairman on Ways and Means Committee since 2011, meaning he has a lot of say on the state’s tax policies.
“No matter what it is, it’s good to have experience,” Koenig said of his time in office. “What you find from the voters is that if you have people that have decades and decades [of experience], there’s not a lot of incentive for people to push new ideas. They kind of just support themselves and make sure they get elected.”
Koenig also owns a construction and painting company that he says gives him the unique perspective of working on government regulations and personally seeing their impact on the private sector. It also gives him a lot of responsibility, he says.
“With roofing, if you pick up a twenty or thirty thousand dollar project, you have to manage your money on it,” he said. “You have to manage your cash flow before you get paid.”
He suggests that he has a more conservative record than Stream and that he’ll be a vigorous champion for those values, given his endorsements from four of Missouri’s most influential conservative political organizations. He has “A” ratings from Americans for Prosperity, United for Missouri, the Missouri Alliance for Freedom, and the American Conservative Union. Koenig also received an endorsement from Missouri Right to Life, while Stream did not.
He also cites his efforts on TIF reform and carrying the bill that cut the income tax for the first time in a century, something he makes sure to tell potential voters who he says fear taxes are too high.
“There’s no question the income tax is destructive towards economic growth,” he said. “A lot of the states that are growing are the states don’t have income tax. Capital is mobile; it seeks the least resistance.”
However, Stream believes he also brings a lot of conservative principles to the table, including his work in helping to balance the budget year after year (he was vice-chair of the budget committee for four years before he chaired it). He’s anti-abortion, pro-gun, and pro-military.
“I’m not afraid to talk about conservative issues in Kirkwood, which has voted twice for Barack Obama and voted against concealed carry,” Stream said. “I’m not afraid, I don’t back down from my conservative convictions… I can run on my record. If it’s not good enough to win, then I didn’t deserve to win.”
Unlike Koenig, Stream still hears complaints about there not being enough jobs – even though the official unemployment rate in the U.S. (and in Missouri) is below five percent. He believes those numbers are fraudulent from the federal government. To fix it, he wants to lower taxes, lower costs on health care and enact right-to-work legislation.
“People can’t find good paying jobs with benefits. Those have disappeared in America under the Obama administration,” he said. “We have to create an environment… that will induce business to come here and grow here.”
The two candidates will face off in a debate Sunday, July 24 on This Week in Missouri Politics. Viewers in St. Louis can catch it at 11:00 a.m. on ABC 30 KDNL or in Mid-Missouri on KRCG at 6:00 a.m.