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Opinion: Lessons from the Mike Moon Senate race


Office holders, particularly those in the General Assembly, were sent a stark message by the victory of Rep. Mike Moon in the race for the senate seat in the 29th district (Southwest Missouri).

For most of his 4 terms in the House of Representatives, Mike was marginalized and discounted by most of his colleagues. Don’t get me wrong, he was highly respected for his principled stands and consistent constitutional voting record, but he was the guy who, they thought, couldn’t possibly get anything done because he wouldn’t play the games that are expected of reps in the top-down power structure of the House.

Mike Moon was elected to the House in a special election, so he didn’t go through the same freshman orientation the rest of his “class” did. He didn’t get the memo that says the newbies are supposed to toe the line leadership draws in the sand if they expect to get a good office, the committee appointments they want, and for their bills to move. He missed the message that says a rep has to put his principles and constituents and his oath to support the Constitution behind loyalty to the party leadership.

In the long run, the freshmen orientation wouldn’t have made much difference — Mike is Mike — but it did give him the advantage of entering the belly of the beast with the same expectation that the people that voted for him had, that his primary duty was to represent them and the Constitution, rather than the few privileged members of leadership.

In the 2 1/2 decades I have walked the halls and frequented the offices of the Capitol, I have met few who were as committed as Mike to that duty, and no one as vocal about it.

Mike was actually cut out to be a senator. He will thrive in an environment where the people’s representatives are at least somewhat less dependent on the good graces of the few in leadership.

In the mean time, the rest of us have come to realize that, although Mike Moon didn’t pass a single bill in his four terms in the House, he was successful where it counted most — he was loyal to his oath of office and truly represented the people who sent him to the Capitol, rather than the party leadership.

And the stark message to other office holders — especially incoming freshmen: You, too, can honor your oath, represent your constituents, and think for yourself and still win a lopsided senate race against a consummate party insider.

There’s a second message for everyone in politics, too.

You DON’T have to use the big, dirty consulting firms, like Axiom Strategies, to win. You can run an honorable grassroots campaign with a novice 22 year old campaign manager and focus on issues and still beat mud-slingers — in fact savvy voters are demanding as much.