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Clem Smith promises to ‘keep things simple’ as acting chair of Missouri Democrats


Clem Smith is keeping the Missouri Democratic Party going. 

Smith, a former state representative, took over as acting chair of the party earlier this month so Jean Peters Baker could focus on her work as a prosecutor in Jackson County. Smith plans to be in the role for only a few months — the goal is to “reassess” in September, he said — but he plans to “keep the ship going straight” while in the leadership position. 

“Being real with people, being honest with folks, has helped me along the way, and I hope to continue to do that with the Missouri Democratic Party,” Smith told The Missouri Times in an interview. “The Missouri Democratic Party is very diverse. Being able to bridge some of these different groups together for the common goal of winning can be difficult, but I’m confident in my ability to do it and keep the ship going straight.” 

While he does helm the party, Smith said his focus is on flipping seats from red to blue, aggressively supporting Medicaid expansion efforts, and promoting participation in the U.S. Census. 

“I see Missouri at one time went from blue to purple to red, where we’re at now,” Smith said. “But what I see going forward is the state resetting and going more to the center like we were before. I think Missourians understand you have to have a balance, especially in these days. I think some of the best legislation [and] best ideas come out when you have a closer ballot then how it is now.” 

“I think it’s a measured thing, and you’re seeing some slow gains going that way,” he continued. “There’s a House seat that changed hands earlier, the 99th. I do see the state trending back to the center and with that comes more tension from campaigns and everything when it’s election time.”

When it comes to the Census, Smith said he’s convinced Missouri missed out on a congressional seat the last go-around because of a lack of participation. He said more work needs to be done to ensure Missourians feel comfortable giving their information to the federal government. 

“This is a nonpartisan issue, but I think it’s very important for both political parties to encourage Missourians to do that duty and fill out that Census to have a real count of who is here,” Smith said. “When redistricting comes around, we ended up losing a seat last time because Missouri did not grow, they say, at the rate some other states grew. In my heart, I feel that wasn’t the case, but I want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” 

Smith represented an area in the middle of St. Louis County for eight years in the House before terming out in 2018. And he’s worked in manufacturing for most of his life. He was employed at the former Chrysler plant in Fenton for more than a dozen years before he began working as an aircraft assembly mechanic for F/A-18s at Boeing, the job he held while in the legislature. 

Now, Smith works for Phillips 66 and still resides in St. Louis County. 

In a statement announcing her departure earlier this month, Baker said Smith “is the right person to lead our party at this critical moment.” She has served as the chair of the party since 2018. 

“I am grateful for his partnership,” she said. “The Missouri Democratic Party has long embraced inclusion and diversity, as well as the need to address racial injustices in our state and nation. Clem will rise to the challenges and recognizes the need for leadership at this time of great unrest.”