In a hyperpartisan age, there is nothing more literally partisan than the Missouri Democratic Party and the Missouri Republican Party fighting with each other. Even before blind partisanship was all the rage, they fought. There isn’t always more for the state parties to do to assist their own candidates in today’s world of PACs and independent expenditures, which leaves modern state parties in a unique role.
However, the claim that Jean Peters Baker cannot continue her job as Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney while chairing the Missouri Democratic Party is one without merit.
The state of Missouri long ago decided that our state’s top prosecutor and each county’s top prosecutor would be elected in partisan elections. Elected as a Democrat, there is no reason Peters Baker cannot serve as she was elected to do while being a partisan figure. It’s the way the founders of our state intended it.
Jean Peters Baker, former state representative and current Jackson County prosecutor, was a solid choice to lead a struggling Missouri Democratic Party. She has a strong track record legislatively and judicially and is a team player for her party.
Any prosecutor will be rightly subject to public criticism and public scrutiny, but many of the same Republicans who are today claiming she is a partisan hack certainly weren’t saying that a few months ago when she declined to continue prosecuting former-Governor Eric Greitens. In fact, there isn’t much a record of serious complaints of partisanship in her current role at all.
While she is a good choice, she inherits a tough job.
It’s highly unlikely that Missouri Republicans lose their supermajority in the coming cycle and today the future looks like several cycles of Republican majorities. The talented teams choosing to work together to elect Republicans is a far cry from the evolving Missouri Democratic Party.
Less than three decades ago, areas like Schuyler and Adair counties were represented by Democrats, how they have their Trump signs up in their yards still. The lead belt just lost their last Democratic representative in outgoing, term-limited Rep. Ben Harris. Meanwhile, the suburbs of Kansas City and St. Louis are being chiseled away by Democrats as the same seat that elected Rep. Gary Cross has chosen Rep.-elect Keri Ingle.
Ingle won her district, which is part of Lee’s Summit, with 53 percent and beat her Republican opponent, a very popular local named Tom Lovell by 6 points.
Cross and Ingle are two completely different types of elected officials to be chosen from the same district within years of each other. Missouri Democrats have a window. It’s not in the most recent seats they lost over the last decade, but seats in areas that elected Jean Peters Baker county-wide to find justice for victims.
Naysayers have questioned the new chair’s impartiality, but her election to chair makes her no bigger Democrat than she was 30 minutes before election. She has long supported up and down ticket candidates of her own party as the elected prosecutor, much like other Republicans and Democrats around the state do.
Peters Baker taking over the Missouri Democratic party will make her a bigger target for scrutiny, but claims that she can’t do her job as prosecutor while serving her party, well as they would say in Rep. Ben Harris’ former district, “That dog won’t hunt.”
Rachael Herndon is the editor at The Missouri Times, and also produces This Week in Missouri Politics, publishes Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosts the #moleg podcast. She joined the Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.
To contact Rachael, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @TheRachDunn.