2019 marks a new start in Missouri, led by some of the youngest conservative leaders in the country with Elijah Haahr as the House Speaker, Senator Caleb Rowden in the Majority Floor Leader’s Office, and now-Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick on the 2nd floor. Missouri’s new freshman U.S. Senator, Josh Hawley, is the youngest U.S. Senator in the country.
Hawley’s election follows a midwest trend of electing younger Republicans with neighboring state Arkansas previously being represented by the youngest U.S. Senator, Tom Cotton. Cotton, 41, is 1 and a half years older than Hawley, who just turned 40 on December 31, 2018.
In Missouri, the only state elected offices without an age requirement are secretary of state, treasurer, and attorney general.
“The Missouri House selecting the youngest speaker in the nation is part of a larger trend in our state,” Haahr said. “Dirk Deaton is the youngest elected legislator in over a hundred years. New state senators Justin Brown, Lincoln Hough, and Tony Luetkemeyer are all millennials. And, of course, our new U.S. Senator, Josh Hawley, is the youngest senator in the country. My age may be an anomaly nationally, but I am in the wheelhouse of our Missouri GOP. Missourians should be excited for the future of our state.”
Millennials, which Nielsen Media Research dubs as those born between 1977-1996, are 22-41 years of age as of the writing of this article. Roughly a quarter of the 100th General Assembly are millennials, with Deaton at the youngest.
In 2015, the Census released that millennials now outnumber baby boomers nationally. In Missouri, however, the two generations are neck and neck, with all but 8 counties being outside of 10 points of difference, likely due to being home to colleges, universities, and/or military bases.
In Missouri, just over a quarter (25.46%) of Missourians are within the Census group of those aged 25-44 (1993-1974), making millennials the most accurately represented demographic of the state. The remaining 74.54% of the population is represented by the 42.58% of Missouri born before 1974.
Blame the increase in the percentage of younger lawmakers on innovation compression and/or term limits, but younger lawmakers, ranging from small business owners to lawyers and preachers to farmers, are taking their life experience – and their political leanings – as motivation to run for office.
“There are a lot of people who are more liberal early in life, and then become more conservative the more life they have lived,” Fitzpatrick said. “Obviously, this is not true of everyone, and sometimes one’s life experiences cause the opposite to occur. I was a bit unique in terms of the experiences I had in business at a young age, and the encounters I had dealing with government at all levels in my late teens and early twenties. Those experiences firmly shaped my worldview of one that is better with less government involvement in our day to day lives.
“Because of the encounters I had with bureaucrats in running a business at a young age,” Fitzpatrick said, “I decided I wanted to get involved to try to help people navigate the red tape of government when necessary, and to stop any more of that red tape from being created.”
For Fitzpatrick, being the second youngest statewide official in the country is nothing more than a fun fact about his elected service. The youngest statewide official is also-appointed Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner.
“I am not nervous about my age as it relates to my position,” Fitzpatrick said. “That being said, like any public official, I want to do an incredibly good job for the taxpayers, and I will always be on my toes to make sure we are doing the best job possible for the people of Missouri.”
Treasurer Fitzpatrick credited his non-millennial caucus colleagues – former Speakers Tim Jones, John Diehl, and Todd Richardson – for placing him on the powerful budget committee, giving him the opportunity to prove himself.
“I really don’t feel that age has been a consideration by my colleagues, which is a bit surprising,” Fitzpatrick said. “When I was first elected, age may have played into some of the other members’ perception of me, but I feel that once we got to know each other, my age just became more of a number. Plus, now that I am in my thirties, a lot of them are younger than me. I have a special friendship with many other members, especially the ones that I have served with since I was elected in 2012.”
Speaker Haahr said in a previous interview that Republicans often overlook age in favor of overall effectiveness.
“I don’t necessarily think age has anything to do with your life experience, what you have seen and done, or your ability to best represent the voters,” Haahr said. “I think people look at caucus leadership, not from a perspective of age but from a perspective of experience and how they can better the causes.”
The causes? Over and over, the next generation of young Republican elected officials says shrinking the size of government by “cutting red tape” and preserving the essential rights guaranteed by the founding documents of this country are their top priorities.
“Being a conservative begins with a belief that free people in free markets are the most successful people on earth,” Haahr said. “Recognizing that government impedes those free people far more than it helps them and, therefore, the best government is a limited one. That government should build roads, protect the innocent, defend free speech, free religion, and a free press, and keep the peace. And just like we are expected to, the government should live within its means. That Americans spend their money far more efficiently than bureaucrats, so the less the latter takes from the former, the better for everyone. And all of this can only exist with the recognition that the rule of law is the cornerstone of our Republic.”
“To me, being a conservative means allowing people to live their lives with as little government intrusion as possible, and realizing the main role of government is to protect individual liberty first – including the rights of the unborn, and providing essential services that a free market cannot provide on its own, such as law enforcement and infrastructure, while only taxing the people as much as they must be taxed to pay for those essential services,” Fitzpatrick said.
The leaders of Missouri’s next generation of conservatives hope to lend the state’s Republican future more than any begrudging cliche for millennials, instead looking to applying their age-specific innovation expertise to better policy – and better politics.
“Being a millennial gives me a unique viewpoint on policy and recognizing the exciting opportunities we have because of the current technological age,” Haahr said. “I’ve grown up in a world where shopping online is the norm, pictures develop instantaneously, and candidates bypass traditional media to have conversations directly with voters on Facebook and Twitter.”
Treasurer Fitzpatrick noted that the party “needs to do a better job appealing to millennials, and I believe the age diversity I bring to the statewide ticket will help with that.”
“I am acutely familiar with the 21st-century challenges we must address: the rapidly increasing prescriptions drug abuse epidemic, our deteriorating transportation infrastructure, and the workforce skills gap,” Haahr said. “As part of a generation that is facing these issues, and knowing the innovative tools we have at our fingertips, I hope to help lead the state in addressing them.”
With an early career start, political observers can only speculate where current leaders’ careers will go. Speaker Haahr, on one hand, has his eyes set immediately on his tenure as speaker and what the lower chamber can accomplish.
“Our legislature and leaders are replete with millennials brimming with optimism and energy,” Haahr wrote in a piece in the January 2019 edition of the Missouri Times Magazine. “We are not afraid to embrace innovative ideas that will benefit the future of our state in ways those before us never dreamt possible. Just like the giants we follow made history, we too will make history by delivering bold solutions to develop a strong workforce and create jobs, offering Missourians a chance to achieve the American Dream at home in the state we love.”
On the other hand, Fitzpatrick, newly minted as treasurer, is learning the ropes of a new job – and hoping to be rehired by the voters in less than 2 years from his start in the office.
“I’m looking forward to serving as the State Treasurer, and proving to the people of MIssouri that I am worthy of another term in that office,” Fitzpatrick said.
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.