JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Rep. Joe Don McGaugh, R-Carrollton, has invoked the rape allegations against incoming Rep. Steve Roberts as part of his campaign for speaker pro tem, drawing rebuke from senior members of his own party, including Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Lake Ozark, chairman of the Energy and Environment committee.
In an email to fellow caucus members, McGaugh took on a tone similar to that of editorial writers at the Kansas City Star and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who are consistently critical of the conservative supermajority in the legislature. Monday, Mary Sanchez with the Kansas City Star wrote, “The escapades were often egged on and then summarily dismissed as only so much drunken fun. It all was placed under a ‘boys will be boys’ mentality. As if women are just supposed to take it, being the outnumbered gender in Jefferson City political circles.”
In McGaugh’s email to all members of the Republican caucus yesterday he wrote, “I am truly concerned with the culture issue we continue to have in Jeff City. Unless we start to take proactive steps now, the issues will not be resolved.”
McGaugh was referencing an incident between two people that occurred last month neither of whom are members of the General Assembly, but are candidates for election to the House next month. The incident occurred over 130 miles from the state capitol in St. Louis.
He went on to outline steps he would take as Speaker Pro Tem to “promote ethical behavior among all members.” McGaugh continued, “Our caucus is no stranger to dealing with these situations, and if elected Speaker Pro Tem, I plan to institute crisis communication contingencies for all caucus members who wish to use them.”
But some of the recipients of McGaugh’s message felt that no matter how well-intentioned he might be, McGaugh was taking advantage of the situation for his own personal gain.
“I appreciate your stance, but how different is your email from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch using this incident for gain,” Miller wrote in reply to McGaugh. “We should all strive to be an example of good in the world, but that should be a given and I see no need for your statements other than to somehow further yourself. I am certain you meant nothing but good with your email, but I am a little disappointed in you.”
However, McGaugh insisted that he was demonstrating the type of leadership he would provide and that he couldn’t just let the situation go by without doing anything.
“I am running for a leadership position,” he wrote in reply to Miller. “Leaders take action in times of crisis and turmoil. I was simply trying to convey that I had a plan and wanted the best for the caucus. What my email was meant to convey was they as a caucus we should not sit on our hands when these crisis situations arise. We should be prepared for them,” McGaugh wrote.
But Miller still disagreed and thought McGaugh’s email was unbecoming of someone who wanted to be in leadership.
“I do care how you act, that is the point. Thus, it feels like you are taking advantage of a situation, much like the St Louis Post-Dispatch,” he replied. “I expect more from my proposed leaders.”
When asked if he was concerned that by publicly defending the Republican majority in the legislature that he would now be targeted by liberal editorial writers, Rep. Miller responded, “I don’t care.”
McGaugh stood by his emails when reached by the Missouri Times and said something has to be done in the caucus.
“I’m just trying to convey the message that I support Speaker Richardson’s stance of no tolerance for this kind of behavior and I think it’s something that we as a caucus should get out in front of instead of sitting on our hands and waiting for the media to portray us as corrupt individuals in Jefferson City,” he said. “That’s my point.”
He said that these types of allegations have been affecting legislators at home, where people think they’re corrupt.
“I think any time you have women in Jefferson City who are being harassed and what has happened in the past, you hit those issues straight on when they happen,” he said. “With this being in the news, and again it being brought up every three months that we’re corrupt politicians in Jefferson City and they bring up John Diehl and Don Gosen, we don’t need to be going to our local coffee shop and answering these questions over and over again. It’s time we take a stance for people of actions and put the issue to bed and tell folks that 99 percent of the folks in Jefferson City are not what they read about in the papers.”
Reps. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, and Delus Johnson, R-St. Joseph, are also running for speaker pro tem.