Jefferson City, MO — Representative Penny Hubbard attributed racial motivations to a decision by Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel to remove Hubbard from her committee positions on Wednesday night, an accusation Hummel steadfastly denies.
“This decision had absolutely nothing to do with race,” Hummel said. “It had to do with several instances of her voting with the majority, in opposition to our caucus. Representative Hubbard voted against the bill and was initially against the emergency clause, but after a member of the Speaker’s staff came over to speak with her, she changed her vote. That is what this was about, and in no way was it about race,” Hummel said.
Hubbard, who cast the necessary 109th vote on the floor to attach an emergency clause to a special elections bill, said Hummel’s behavior on the floor in response to her vote was “concerning and unprofessional.”
“I think maybe he’s used to being able to treat black women a certain way,” Hubbard said. “This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this kind of behavior.”
Sources in the House, who asked not to be identified, indicated that Hubbard made assurances she was opposed to the emergency clause before casting a vote in favor. Hubbard did not comment on those assurances to The Missouri Times. Hubbard said eight other democrats voted in favor of the bill without the emergency clause — abandoning a party-line vote — but that her vote on the emergency clause was the only one that was “punished.”
“I don’t know what it says when you have 8 other democrats that don’t vote with you, but I’m the only one being punished,” Hubbard said. “It’s hard not to imagine that this is based on race.”
When asked why Hubbard was punished for her vote despite other democratic representatives voting for the bill on the floor, as well as favoring the emergency clause in committee, Hummel responded that we “was not aware,” of the committee vote.
“We all agreed, as a caucus, that we would oppose the emergency clause,” Hummel said. “Representative Hubbard was with us until being spoken to by a member of the majority leadership staff. That continued a pattern from last session, so we decided — along with our Assistant Floor Leader Representative Gail Beatty — that this was appropriate.”
Hubbard said that Hummel “humiliated” her on the floor of the House during the vote, and that his behavior prompted her to file an official letter of complaint with the House Ethics committee. It was a few hours after she filed the complaint that she was informed she’d be stripped of her committee positions.
Hubbard told The Missouri Times in an interview that Hummel’s behavior made her, at times, afraid, and that he “stalked” her through the halls of the Capitol. In her letter of complaint to the Ethics committee, Hubbard claims she felt “threatened” and that she was the victim of “harassment” by Hummel and that his behavior on the floor was “an obstacle to representing my constituents.” Hubbard said members of the black caucus that witnessed Hummel’s statements on the floor Wednesday were in agreement. “I strongly feel he is lashing out against me because I am an African American female,” the letter states.
“I didn’t come [to Jefferson City] to do this kind of work,” Hubbard said. “I came to represent my constituents, I came to work for them, not engage in this kind of stuff.”
Senator Jamilah Nasheed — a former house member who is known for working with members across the aisle, and Chair of the Black caucus — was unhappy with the decision.
“I can tell you this was the wrong decision,” Nasheed said. “More than that I’ll say it was an amateur move on his part. Let me tell you one thing, I will be keeping a close eye out for any legislation he sends over to the senate. He has basically become a lame duck now.”
Hummel responded to Senator Nasheed’s comments by saying he regrets the problem.
“I certainly regret that she said that, but as Minority Leader, I would say that it is unlikely that I will be sending many bills to the senate.” Nasheed says that a meeting is being scheduled with both house and senate leadership to decide on how to move forward, if at all, under the current circumstances.
Several members of the house democratic caucus, on the condition of anonymity, have said they supported Hummel’s move, and he contends his decision, “has the support of the caucus behind it.” A leading member of the democratic caucus, Representative Jeff Roorda, stated that while he had not been consulted on the move he would not second-guess the democratic leadership.
“We elect our leadership and provide them with the authority to make these types of decisions. I wasn’t consulted, but I’m not going to second-guess it,” Roorda said. Assistant Minority Floor Leader Representative Beatty supported Hummel’s assertions, “This had nothing what so ever to do with race. This was because of a long string of actions none of them having anything to do with race.”
House Speaker Tim Jones, in a deft political maneuver, created three new standing committees on Uban Issues, Small Business and Corrections and offered positions to Hubbard on each, including the Chairmanship of Urban Issues. The move effectively renders Hummel’s decision hollow, as Hubbard will continue to serve on three committees in the same capacity.
Nasheed praised the move calling it, “a smart move, a very smart and reasonable move considering the circumstances.” While Representative Beatty felt differently, “I think it is unfortunate because, as a caucus, you need to be able to reprimand your members and not have the Speaker come in and change things.”
Collin Reischman can be reached by emailing him at email@example.com or on twitter at @CReischman
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.