The race to become the next Speaker Pro Tem in the Missouri House of Representatives features three strong contenders in Reps. Jason Chipman, Glen Kolkmeyer, and John Wiemann. We spoke with each representative about a number of issues to get their thoughts on where Missouri goes next, the issues they foresee, and why they want to serve as the Pro Tem.
Here are the answers from Rep. Jason Chipman:
MT: What motivated you to run for Speaker Pro Tem?
JC: I have had the privilege of serving as the Majority Caucus Secretary for the last year and have seen how the Pro Tem can affect the caucus and our party. I believe my skill set and personality match up well with what I envision for the Speaker Pro Tem.
MT: What would you seek to do in the role?
JC: First and foremost is serving the needs of the caucus. In speaking with Pro Tem’s of the past, they each made it their own. Were I to be the Pro Tem, I foresee the office being a place where members can bounce around ideas, prepare for debate, and use the office as a soundboard to the rest of the leadership team.
MT: How has your experience in the House equipped you for such an important leadership role?
JC: After serving as the Caucus Secretary beginning this term, I can say the responsibility of being in a leadership position is a bit different. You are more focused on serving others’ needs and putting aside some of your own priorities to serve the caucus. I have been privy to leadership meetings and seeing how the current Pro Tem has approached different situations. I have also handed difficult legislation, taking all the slings and arrows that come with it.
MT: What do you see as the primary purpose of the pro tem office and how would you achieve that?
JC: The primary role is, of course, to back up the Speaker when needed. Most often, this means running the dais. I have already shown in the last year that I handle the role well and am often the go-to person to fill in when the Speaker and Pro Tem are needed elsewhere.
MT: What sets you apart from the other candidates for the position?
JC: I am the only veteran, come from the most rural district, and, contrary to the some continued assertions, politics was never part of any of my careers.
MT: What priorities would you like the see the legislature tackle in 2018?
JC: I want to see a continuation of what we started in 2017. There are still so many issues to address concerning labor, tort, education, and ethics reform. There is also a multitude of issues that need to be addressed that don’t get the headlines but are just as important to a lot of our members. We also need to work on diluting the power of the administrative branch. They have grown too powerful in their ability to act as each of the three branches of government on their own. Hopefully, we can check our egos at the door and set aside any personal issues to move Missouri in a more conservative direction.
MT: What moment are you most proud of as a legislator?
JC: Getting sworn in the first time was my proudest and also most bittersweet moment as a legislator. I was proud to have my family with me to see a culmination of a lot of hard work and sacrifice. It was also bittersweet because my grandfather, who did as much if not more than anyone to get me elected, passed away two days before inauguration day.
MT: What advice would you give to an incoming freshman representative?
JC: God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. Don’t be afraid to question leadership or hold them accountable. Don’t take a vote based on how you think it will affect your next election, especially when you know it’s the right thing to do.
MT: How does the House maintain unity in its supermajority?
JC: It takes strong leadership and accountability to each other. We all have disagreements about various issues, but having the ability to disagree without being disagreeable is paramount. We also have to be able to communicate not just more, but better. Just because a bill is considered to be a priority doesn’t mean the process doesn’t need an explanation.
MT: What do you see as the biggest challenge of serving in leadership in a supermajority?
JC: Serving competing priorities is easily the biggest challenge. Because of term limits, members are often looking to make a big impact in the short time we have to serve. They are also looking at what their next step might be in their political careers. Doing what is politically expedient and moving the state in a conservative direction may end up being two different things. It’s up to leadership to steer the ship in a conservative direction through turbulent waters.
We also asked each representative to take part in a “rapid fire” round of questioning.
- Favorite chain restaurant: Any of them that are truthful about the allergen content of their food. Celiac disease really cuts down the options.
- Favorite Jefferson City hang out: Watching Blues games at Buffalo Wild Wings
- Favorite TV show: The Sopranos
- Favorite food to BBQ: Pork steak
- Favorite animal at the zoo: Anything in the primate house. You never know what you’re going to see.