With the federal government likely to loosen up regulations on COVID aid money, we took a look at cities in Missouri that have stroke in the state Capitol. Of course, the list is up for interpretation. We looked at investment in government relations as well as cities that are represented by ranking legislators or have strategic assets the legislature typically invests money in to protect.
Springfield – In a state that went from purple to ruby red in the last 10 years, it only makes sense that the hub of the most Republican area of the state would have serious clout in the capitol. Combine that to being the home of the senior U.S. Senator Roy Blunt; the incumbent Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr; the most influential senator on the appropriations committee, Sen. Lincoln Hough; the House Minority Floor Leader Rep. Crystal Quade; a leading candidate to be the next House Floor Leader in Rep. Curtis Trent; and the House Budget chairman for the next four years, Rep. Cody Smith just down the road in Joplin, Springfield sits very well to reap any additional procurement.
However, Springfield is also home to Missouri State University, whose very influential President Clif Smart wields as much as stroke as anyone in Missouri. Combine that with a very connected mayor in Ken McClure and a governmental relations team of William Marrs and Kelli Richardson as well as Jay Hahn and the very highly regarded Ryan DeBoef, and no city in the state is in a better position to be helped by any stimulus or infrastructure funds.
Kansas City – Kansas City has always done well in the state Capitol by trying to be slightly less liberal, and in some ways less arrogant, than St. Louis. Now it has maybe the most dynamic politician in the state in their new mayor, Quinton Lucas, along with well-respected Sen. Mike Cierpiot just down the road in Lee’s Summit. Kansas City has a top-notch governmental relations team with Nancy Giddens, Shannon Cooper, and Sammy Panettiere. Also, never underestimate the political clout that comes along with being the home of the Chiefs and their lobbyists, Rich AuBuchon and Jennifer Durham. Look for Kansas City to avoid things that hurt it in the state Capitol and maintain its position clout in the state Capitol.
St. Charles – When you look at the places in the state that vote Republican and are growing, for the past decade you have looked at St. Charles. It is still one of the few places in Missouri that voted Republican 30 years ago and mostly still does today. It has one of the most respected statesmen in Missouri in Steve Ehlmann serving as its county executive and in an influential pair of senators in Bob Onder and Bill Eigel.
It also has invested in governmental relations, retaining Gamble and Schlemeier for the better part of 10 years now, along with the county contracting with Gibbons and Workman. St. Charles is the most interesting area in the state for the evolving Republican brand and is ground zero in redistricting. Its clout has grown along with
Republican dominance. The question is, will the next generation of leaders maintain it?
Independence The hometown of Harry Truman often punches above its weight in the state Capitol, holding more clout than many realize. Independence is home to Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo who will likely hold the reins on many pieces of legislation in what could be a very long term as leader.
Independence has also laid the groundwork to be successful in an environment like this by retaining Bardgett and Associates as well as its municipal power company retaining Steve Tilley and Thomas Robbins. Further, Independence benefits from a mayor with a growing regional and state profile in Eileen Weir as well as the Jackson County legislature’s government relations team of Fred Dreiling, Cara Hoover, and Noel Torpey. Just look at the number of pieces of legislation in recent years that have been altered, killed, or carved out by Independence to show its earned place on this list.
Columbia – It would make sense to some that Columbia would be higher on the list because of the university, and to others, it wouldn’t make sense at all for the same reason. To be fair, there was a time when Mizzou was completely unhelpful to Columbia in the capitol. However, in recent years under Mun Choi and his government relations director Dusty Schneiders along with their hiring of Husch Blackwell Strategies, Mizzou went from a liability to just quiet and is now again a help to Columbia’s clout in the capitol.
While Mizzou is always at the forefront of any discussion on Columbia, it is fortunate to be represented by perhaps the most influential legislator in Missouri in Senate Floor Leader Caleb Rowden. Also, don’t discount the rising influence of Rep. Kip Kendrick on budget issues in the House. Mayor Brian Treece is poised to become a much larger voice in the state in coming years and will be a force if he chooses to be in either the state Senate or in a statewide race. He has assembled a team of Rodney Gray, Cara Alexander, and Susan Henderson Moore to represent the city as well as Michael Grote working for Boone County. Columbia is always a highly talked about part of the state — these days for good reasons.
Others – It sort of goes without saying that any large amount of state funding will automatically benefit Jefferson City. It’s the seat of state government, and, of course, home to the imminently respected Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe. Also, we didn’t put the most important city in the state, St. Louis, on the list because most of the attention it gets from the capitol is attempting to do things to St. Louis and not for St. Louis. That may be changing with its new lobbying team, but if history is a guide, the most liberal enclave in the state is likely the largest target of the very conservative party that dominates the capital.
Scott Faughn is the publisher of The Missouri Times, owner of the Clayton Times in Clayton, Mo; SEMO Times in Poplar Bluff, Mo.; and host of the only statewide political television show, This Week in Missouri Politics.