Sixteen-year legislative leader Sen. Ron Richard – the only man in Missouri history to serve as speaker of the Missouri House and president pro tem of the Missouri Senate – reflects on his entry into politics and time in the House.
This is part two in a multipart series.
Q. Well, welcome back to part 2 of our interview on the career of the only man to ever be Speaker of the House and President of the Senate, Senator Ron Richard. Thank you so much for having us here at Fourth Street Bowl in Joplin.
A. My pleasure, I hope you enjoy yourself in our little abode but we’re very proud of it.
Q. So from this office you were working and then you ran for state representative, pretty easy race, I guess after being mayor you probably thought you had to be the favorite, right?
A. Yes, but when I lost that race to Marvin Singleton four years before, I figured that a little more hard work, a little more political nuances would help and so I changed some strategy and campaign and how to spend money and raise money and it worked ever since.
Q. So you come in as part of the biggest freshman class ever.
A. Yeah, 96, 97, 94, whatever it was.
Q. Brought the majority?
A. Did, did.
Q. Where were you at that night on election night when you found out you were going to be the majority? Were you here, did you go to the central party?
A. I was at home, and I didn’t know that and I think either rod Jett or Jason Krawl SP, because they was calling around; Richard Bird and Jason Krawl was calling around, trying to get the votes for majority leader and that’s when I found out because I didn’t know, I just didn’t think about a majority coming in that heavy, but.
Q. On all these things are quiet, but where did you come down on that?
A. On what?
Q. On that leadership race?
A. I voted for Jason Krawl.
Q. It’s a funny thing how those leadership races, I think folks vote on them and then sometimes want to have their marble back at times, you know?
A. No, Krawl, he was intense, he was more intense than I was but Richard Bird.
Q. Did you learn something from that? You won a lot of leadership races?
A. Yeah, there’s a time to pull back a little bit. But Jason is very smart. He was the right guy at the right time. Richard Bird went to judiciary chair, the right guy at the right time. I mean it all worked out, Hanaway and Jet had a unique way of putting people in the right that shepherded us along, and Richard Bird.
A. He’s still, we’re still finding things in legislation no one knew there.
Q. You know, I remember back in the day when the republicans first took over, it had been decades, nobody knew how to run the chair?
A. 50 years, yeah, we didn’t know.
Q. It took Crowell getting twisted, I remember the Democrats, the gentleman, Villa?
A. Oh Tom yeah.
Q. Tie things up with the rules?
A. Well he did but then after a fashion, when I was just jumping in, he’d come up and coach me on how to work the rules and stuff and Tom and I have been very friends as a matter of fact he and I send ornery little notes back and forth to each other for years. But I remember the day we walked in that chamber and I looked up and that ceiling and I think that was the day I fell in love with the capitol, of all the artwork and traditions and trying to make it better and then I thought now what do I do? All these people, majority, we don’t know the rules, we don’t, but we learned. We learned, made a few mistakes, we learned.
Q. You come in with that big class, I mean you know most of those folks want to be in leadership too, right?
A. Everybody in the building wants to be in leadership, yeah.
Q. So not much to go off of. There was no freshman class of Republicans in the majority for 50 years. How, what does a person do that gets elected. There’s going to be a huge freshman class this year, that same turnover. What do you do to start trying to set yourself apart and run? Or not even run for leadership. What do you just do to succeed and kind of stand out?
A. I never really cared of standing out and I never thought of running leadership. What I tried to do is understanding that it took 82 to pass anything. I mean I could figure that one out. And circle yourselves with good people, people that are smart, that have a vision, that whether you don’t agree with all the time but that’s what I did. I had Steve Hobbs, a farmer from Mexico, Wasson next to me, Mike Cunningham from Webster, David Sater, I can go through all of them, still very close friends of mine. I just and then at night, they’d all come to my, to Mark Bruns and Hobbs and my office and we’d sit around, Bird and must have been 40 of us every night and talk about what happened in each committee because it was so big we couldn’t ever get to all of them, and so guys like Rich Bird explained to us what’s going on in judiciary and Hobbs would talk about the farming and Munzlinger and those guys would explain. You just couldn’t be everywhere so that’s what we did and then that group of 30 or 40 transcended into a group of 70 or 80 and that started kind of my networking to, didn’t think it was going to do any further than that, but it was just a survival, I guess, try to figure out what was going on because when you make a vote out there, 163, you want to make sure you make a right vote.
Q. Couple of these issues Medicaid reform I remember was a huge thing.
A. Oh yeah!
Q. I always thought it was interesting thing, I think Gov. Jay Nixon is a statesman and he campaigned on restoring those cuts but he never did that, and I think he also liked the AAA credit rating. Could you have had that if you hadn’t made those tough choices back then?
A. Well Matt Blunt is the first one that cut Medicaid and we, when I was speaker, and we cut Medicaid by one vote in the House, and that was tough because I had Charlie Shields and a bunch of senators over there just giving me the dickens about how this ought to go another way and I said my guys just don’t want to do this. They think it’s just not right. We need some other reforms and stuff, and we lost or won that by one vote, depends on what side you’re on, but.
Q. Talk about tort reform. That’s something that has been part of eco devo and was done under governor blunt when you were under the House?
A. Yeah we had a tort reform bill, the first one that Richard Bird did and we’re talking about caps on what the reforms were gonna be, and how much doctors could be capped and lawyers could get when they sue a doctor and medical malpractice caps and we walked into the Benton gallery and Jetton walked over to me and said, “You’re on that conference committee,” I said, “I never been on a conference committee, what do you do?” And he said, “You know what to do.”
We walked in there, Richard Bird was chair, and we voted, and Brian Pratt, who turns out to be my speaker pro tem voted against that tort reform and Crowell and Jetton about had a coronary, yanked him off of there, took him in there and gave him a tongue lash, went back in there, had to go back out, go through all the motions again and I was the deciding vote on that year, of the republican. Charlie Wheeler was the old mayor, he voted with us, he’s an old doctor.
And of course those have been modified since then, the courts and stuff and we’re going to have to go back and address that at some point in time. I was there the deciding vote when we did it first point in time.
Q. Talk to us about workers comp, another one that came through?
A. Yeah I wasn’t so much involved in that as others have. I was just a solid vote other than knowing what workers comp premiums are around here and it’s going out of sight and I was just on the sidelines pushing my members, we did workers comp in the House and Senate and pushing members to vote and follow the chairman so I took a more of a seat to just get the votes.
Q. There was another part in there that’s changed some things and it’s changed back recently but you eliminated the limits on campaign donations. They were very low back in the day.
A. $300 or $350, and $500, yeah they were.
Q. Something like that?
A. Still had plenty of money to run campaigns. I still raised a – Tilley and I, when we were doing that and he was majority leader, we still raised a lot of money. You could go, you had PACs and go and get unlimited different ways but I mean it still you could fund campaigns back on that thing.
Q. It looked to me back in the days that I have worked on campaigns for a while leading up to that, under that old system there would be 50 PACs and the legislative and judicials and all this stuff and the money was roughly, maybe a little bit bigger now, but inflation maybe the same but it sure wasn’t as transparent as if somebody gives a check, they just generally give it to the person?
A. Yeah, I’ve always been a proponent of give whatever you want, based on that Supreme Court ruling, but you have to report it within 24 hours. I don’t care if you give a dollar or five million, then people know where it came from, they can make a decision.
Even now with this campaign law, it’s cumbersome, money is going to find a way, now you got PACS to PACS. You don’t know who belongs to PACS, it’s not going to get the job done.
Q. There was criticism but I think history may have shown there’s no perfect way, but unlimited donations to a person, that looks pretty wise looking back, I think?
A. Well there’s still use your word transparent, at least you know and if you want to penalize someone for taking unlimited amount of money then term limits, every two years in the House, that’s why even then I was a proponent of term limits, sometimes I’m wondering if that’s the best case but looking at the fed, maybe term limits are a good idea. We allow term limits, I would have never had a chance.
Q. So economic development, when I talk to folks, that’s one thing they would say that he cares, he just, his motives, they said that Matt Blunt put it that you don’t question his motives about jobs because you know he truly cares. It’s not personal, it’s not his bill. Where did the passion for economic development come? Just from owning a business?
A. Well, it’s from seeing unemployed people, from seeing people that maybe not had a chance to do exactly what their dream was. And Matt put me in a position to do, we traveled the world together, promoting business. He was a good governor.
I think it was anything else I just involved in, just intense, and it’s the same issue as when I was mayor. It was trying to get people, I always thought the big, the piece of pie would grow, the more people went to work, the better they were trained, they’d make more money, and then because the pie grew, education do better, social services do better, and maybe that’s a simplistic view but that was always my vision and I understood what the issues are on creating jobs and keeping people. I mean I couldn’t, you can’t do much about the economy and stuff on the feds, on stock market and stuff, but I thought if we were diversified in Missouri, that it would go a long way.
Q. About the quality jobs act, that was your bill, that’s been used in every big expansion since then?
A. It was mine and John Griesheimer. And I can’t remember if Griesheimer’s bill passed it because I remember going to him and neither one of us cared who got the credit. We said this thing needs to pass and it could have been him, I don’t remember, but all I knew I was hustling the votes on it and he was hustling votes in the Senate and I still don’t know whose it was.
Q. It’s an amazing thing, if you look at almost every major jobs expansion, some part of that law is used.
A. Yeah Missouri Works, that was our foundation for going forward. When we attracted Ford in Kansas City, Clay Como we used that and we went in special session on that. I remember Governor Nixon called us in and had to whip some votes on that thing and as it turned out, what a great opportunity that was for Kansas Citians, I think around eight thousand people that working there now.
Q. Yeah still today. There’s a story I got told from Rodney Boyd.
A. Uh oh!
Q. And he said he got to know you because he was in Hobbs’ office and you were seatmate with him or same office and he got to know you a little bit and you, he found out about some of your ties to St. Louis and you kept that, you would always ask what do you do to grow jobs and there was one thing not really about economic development directly. He talked about how one time you tried to save drug courts not just in St. Louis but statewide?
A. Well the Supreme Court chief justice, back then, Ray Price, that was one of his big issues of drug court. And administration or previous Speaker of the House didn’t fund drug courts and I thought I said I’m just going to see what it’s all about and I went to St. Louis and visited with drug courts in St. Louis and they even asked me to speak to them as they graduate, and it appeared to me that it had such a benefit, people were changing their lives so I came back, we threw some money at it and then I came back and spoke again because I couldn’t get anybody from St. Louis to go speak at drug courts in downtown St. Louis, and then I became pretty good friends with Francis Slay and I said, I’m from St. Louis, I mean but my city is at the other end, I-44 if you do good I’m gonna do good. What is it, I mean you guys are losing corporate, what is it that we need to do to kickstart St. Louis?
That’s when we started to with Express Scripts, and we started and I tried to figure a way to save Hazelwood Ford plant, and people think I’m, you know, against unions. I mean I probably put more union people to work.
Q. Clay Como is fully union, right?
A. Well then we kept Hazelwood long enough those guys retire, we took out a billion dollar package out to Fenton, and when we was trying to keep Chrysler out there, when it was going to commingle with Volkswagen and for whatever reason, and I don’t know, it didn’t work and they went to Chattanooga, and you know, and what we did for downtown on that GEO Spacial, I mean we don’t really care what kind of jobs they are. We know the fat needs to stay in St. Louis and thank goodness it came together democrats republicans because we had a tough time against Illinois, because they wanted to go out there to the fort outside there.
Q. It’s an interesting thing I mean I got to watch the Clay Como thing from the cheap seats, and you know republicans talk about how no one says or corporate world, or whatever buzz word when they’re campaigning but in the real world, you have to do something to attract the jobs?
A. Yeah, it’s a competition.
Q. Ideology can get, bankrupt you sometimes, looks to me like.
A. Yeah you can’t get in the way of yourself. I remember will Kraus was on economic development, I said will, we’re going to special session. I need to know in a tie vote, I got to get that Ford out. He said he couldn’t vote for it. I pulled him off. We got the thing in and then put it back on. I had, there was no tie, I put it back on, I found out there wasn’t a tie and that’s how serious it was making sure we got that thing out to the floor of the House.
Q. Didn’t sometimes Republicans and I’m sure Democrats from the other perspective, but the ideology just taken to the extreme, just shoot yourself in the foot, almost, they don’t look at numbers.
A. I think that’s why I’ve gotten along. I mean you know Gina Walsh and I are fast friends, too. We worked through issues this last session too has been pretty good example to have a pretty good question on some of those things. I take pride in being able to work with a lot of different people, both sides of the building, and I think Missouri is better off in job creation, job retention than we have ever been. And I think, you know, I’m hopeful for the future. I hope it keeps continuing.
Q. There’s a name that some folks recently might not know well but back when were you in the House was well know, that’s lance Beshore, Liggin & Pratt?
A. Oh yeah.
Q. He was always a very big promoter of yours. How did that relationship start and?
A. He was on the national committee for many years, and I knew him from Liggin, Pratt, Harry Cornell was always big in politics, he was a big Bill Webster supporter back in the ’90s for governor and Attorney General and they were very much in politics, and I went over to him one day when I was running as Marvin and I asked for his help and he said nahh, it’s not your time, we don’t help running against incumbents. Marvin may not be the best, but he’s ours, come back and that was probably the best advice I got. I said thank you. I came back and he’s helped me ever since, but he didn’t help me that time, he said you’re a little too early on this thing.
Q. Sounds like he talked to him about like you talk to other people?
A. Oh yeah.
Q. Direct, honest?
A. How do you not deal with something that’s not forthright? And if I have to apologize for being forthright sometimes, maybe I’m a little bit over the top sometimes but.
Q. So you run for speaker designee. This is the first time that ever happened, right. Normally at the caucus after the election the republicans get together and pick. The former speaker Rod Jetton come up with a way to have somebody, about a year earlier was it, back in the day, so you run against the sitting budget chair Alan Icet?
A. He wasn’t budget chair then, I think Brad Lager was.
Q. Well Brad had got removed and Allen, however it works?
A. Yeah that is right he might have got moved up, that’s probably right, yeah.
Q. So I think people forget, that was probably one of the most contentious speaker races that they’ve seen since they had the majority. Right?
A. I didn’t think so at the time but I had the votes.
A. It was urban against rural, is what it was, but I had a plan, based on Roman allegiance. I had a dirty dozen of 24 people that were supposed to, that get three people, or four, and they were responsible for them, so they would check with them and make sure we’re solid.
Q. Do you have those in a notebook written down?
A. No, I did it right in my brain. So I got the dirty dozen, they had their two or three.
Q. You’re talking Hobbs, Cunningham?
Q. Pierce, back in the day?
A. David Pierce.
Q. Parson one of them?
A. He wasn’t there yet. He was there after I was speaker. Tilley, I mean we had ’em all, and I won, Wasson was my counter and he said we won by eight or nine votes, and some people didn’t tell me the truth but go figure.
But you know, you win. And then that day, we still in the chamber and I just said I’m going to appoint Alan Icet budget chair, and to this day, he was, I mean a really strong, strong budget chair and we had strong personalities in the Senate but Allen could match up.
Q. You had to do some cutting that year, right?
A. Oh yeah.
Q. So to me, do you think because you did it that day, it sent a signal, you weren’t gonna hold grudges, you’re gonna do what’s best for the caucus and the state?
A. I never held a grudge.
Q. But other people might not have been able to know that. Do you think that sent a signal of how you were gonna handle things?
A. Well that was the intention, yeah, yeah. We were, Alan and I one day I will tell you a story about metro. Bob Bayer was running through metro, do you know who he is?
Q. Know who he is.
A. He had passed away. He walked in with tears in his eyes and said we’ve been cut. I don’t have enough money to run. We’ve got people going to work on metro, black, white, brown, everybody, and we need a little extra help so we can get people to work. Alan and I, we got an urban guy and a rural guy, put ten million in the budget for metro when nobody thought it was cool and talked to the Senate and got that done, trying to get people to go to work, that’s how Alan and I felt about putting people to work.
Q. So is the speaker designee a good way to do that? Do you think that’s the right way or should they just do it after the election, just side up and vote?
A. Well, two thoughts. Rod had the vision that he thought somebody ought to know exactly what, how the system works and to get ready for it.
I’m not all that convinced. It puts a lot of pressure, well here’s what happens: You’re speaker for two years, the first year you’re okay. The second year, once a speaker delegate, in waiting, all the lobbying core, all the movement about February goes to that office.
Well it’s hard to negotiate when they’re not ready to negotiate, so you have to hope you have a speaker after you that’s willing to work with you and I was lucky. Steve and I had a good relationship. I don’t remember who Steve’s majority leader was, I think it was for his, too, and then I was not involved in the House after that?
Q. If you were giving a piece of advice to Elijah Haahr, would you tell him to have a speaker designee now, they do it way up in the fall?
A. Yeah, I mean they got 112, 114 maybe they need to, now, I don’t t know and I don’t want to pre-guess what they need to do in the House. We did it our way. We worked, we passed a lot of good stuff. Didn’t pass a lot of stuff. I mean we never did count numbers. We, but I think we increased majority over time.
Q. I want to ask you about that. In 2008, you were the speaker designee, you went out in a bad year for republicans, a year that the presidential nominee barely won, you actually gained seats, one of the of the only republican caucuses in the country?
A. We were lucky to survive. I mean Obama land slide was going on, that was tough. I mean Steve Tilley was out recruiting, I was out raising money and O’Dell was out working, and I don’t know how that worked. I guess we just outworked everybody.
Q. Tell folks about Robert Knodell?
A. He may be one of the best political minds. He helped us save the majority in 2008, if it hadn’t been for him out on the road, Steve recruiting, I’m raising money, along with all and Knodell out getting us good quality candidates, I can’t compliment all of them, that 2008, how we kept majority I don’t know.
Q. So when you’re sitting back, and you’ve got X races to win, X competitive ones, what is that like to put together a plan to fund an entire HRCC operation?
A. It’s horrible. [LAUGHTER] because some people can’t raise money, don’t want to, don’t know how, and spend it in ways that’s not necessarily the best, don’t now how to spend it on polling, don’t know the right vendors, we had to do all that, Knodell and I, and Tilley, we all had to do all that, so we made it work. Made it work.
Q. Back in the day, do you just wear your car out, ask the deal for money? Hard work?
A. That is right, face to face and told ’em what I was going to do, what we can do, what we will do, and what can’t do and I asked for their help and the ones that helped, I kept them in the game,I asked how we had done, what do you think needs to be modified?
Yeah, because some people, we’re such a new majority, people didn’t know how we’re gonna act. We go to Jeff City going back when first elected, we had a meeting at the Coca-Cola plant right across the street there on Whitten, and all the members, new members, doesn’t matter, democrat or republican, and I will never forget like a gauntlet, all the lobbyists were looking at us, who is that, who is he? It’s almost humorous.
Q. Cattle call almost?
A. And especially the lobbying core was on their heels because they’re entrenched on the other side of the aisle and all of a sudden, they’re going hmm, we got to adjust our and we knew who our friends were and who weren’t and it was an adjustment time.
Q. So you never kept your campaign money. You gave it away, most of the of the time, most all of the time, really right?
A. I think I’ve got 70 or 80. I always had a million dollars or two, I gave it all to candidates or polling.
Q. To be a businessman, I don’t think anybody has given away as much money in Missouri as you have?
A. Probably not.
Q. I have done the math I think that’s right.
A. I’m going to give away whatever I have left, if I don’t give to campaigns,whatever, I’ll give it away. I don’t need to have a PAC or have something, I mean when I’m gone I’m gone not going to do that. I have been fortunate. I don’t know how many millions I’ve raised but given it all away for candidates.
Q. I thought it was an interesting thing even in the Senate, yourself and Senator Watson and Senator Cunningham now are some of the last people that ever served with people that served in the minority and you know what that thin majority in ’06 was like?
A. We never served minority.
Q. But you served with people that had?
A. Oh yeah, Munzlinger.
Q. Catherine had served in minority?
A. Oh yeah, yeah, she was minority leader.
Q. And you would actually while you weren’t in the minority you served with people that were.
A. Oh yeah yeah.
Q. Do you think that gives, do you think you had a perspective that the folks coming back next year won’t except Senator Cunningham that you’re not birth, the republicans aren’t entitled by God’s law to be the majority party?
A. No, I tell them all the time sooner or later you’ll be on the first floor. [LAUGHTER]. Everybody, and that’s why I started getting involved in those mezzanines in the House. What a horrible spot. I mean I was with a number of House guys, Gary Burton, Mark Elliott, Chuck Surface.
Q. You were in the mezzanine?
A. They were and I would go visit them and I thought what a horrible place for these people to be, doesn’t make any difference what side of the aisle you are on. And that started my thinking about this whole remodeling the capitol, and I just did one little at a time. I mean when I was speaker first thing I did was tear up the carpet and then look at the hardwoods and had them redone and that started a trend of doing almost all the Senate houses and the House and that got, I talked to Bob Priddy and figured out what I can do to help the capitol and trying to get Parson did the bonding bill and now you can see what’s going on. We’ve been trying to enhance, we had mold, water infiltration from the sides and place was horrible. It was gonna fall over if somebody didn’t pay attention.
Q. So you’re most known, I mean there’s scaffolding all over the capital right now, I don’t think there’s a person in the capitol doesn’t attribute that to you. You were talking about raising money and doing this the whole time you were in leadership, why do you think the capitol, it almost is a little bit of the shame on the folks that ran it not to do anything to maintain it.
A. Out of sight, out of mind I guess. They figured it would be there forever.
Q. Well it really could have fell in on itself?
A. Well it would have, there’s that water infiltration was doing something foundation and the dome was water coming in. But thank goodness we’re going to make it a little bit better.
Q. Are you proud of that?
A. Oh yeah that’s something everybody, and you know when you walk in there, and what a great place to go to work. Mark Elliott always I said what do you think about the building? I used to get pitter patter when I’d go to the capitol and now I’m getting pitter patter when I see it in the rear view mirror when he was term limit out and I thought that was kinda funny.
I haven’t got that pitter patter in my rear view mirror yet but I tell ya, even 16 years, you walk in there and if you just look at that artwork and I used to stop the House whenever there was contentious debate and give a history lesson, a book and read what the murals are and do that people thought I was a little bit nutty on that stuff.
Q. Is that something you will come back to Jeff City for when they get the capitol done?
A. Yeah probably so, I would like to see how that turns out.
Q. I mean there maybe somebody’s name on the plaque or something but I think it’s not just my opinion I think that’s pretty well accepted that if you hadn’t decided to make that your issue, and push it, it would not have happened?
A. Well, you know, I don’t know about that, but it takes 82 to doing in and 18 to do anything so you know I had 17 and 81 that thought the same way so credit goes to everybody.
Q. So you become speaker. There’s a couple interesting things about being speaker. There’s a lot of interesting things about being speaker but one a lot of people I talked to would mention back to me, Senator Cunningham mentioned that to me and a few others, that you had a lot of people that helped you. I had a list of Parson, Pierce, Hobbs, Bronze, Wasson, Cunningham, I know there were more, they were chairman and you dealt with chairmen and it seems like you gave them a lot of latitude to make decisions?
A. I did. I give them a lot of power and I did that in the Senate, too. We’ll start with Brian Munzlinger when he did ag. I had a number of people that I was moving around and some people I didn’t trust too well. I had Munzlinger on eight committees one time. I pulled someone off, he was on eight. How you do eight committees, I don’t know, but he did it. Mike Parson traveled with me when we were recruiting over in the boot heel and he was chair of rules when I was speaker. And I had a rules chairman that was having a tough time with his health and it was an education bill and I thought it just needed to be tweaked. Parson, he always walked by the dais and look up at me and said, “You asked for it,” which I’m reminding him now he asked for it and he knows what I’m talking about so I said “Parsons, you’ve got a real issue coming here.” He said, “What’s that?” “You know that education bill you’re doing. You’re going to rewrite it.” He said, “I don’t know anything about that.” I said, “you’re gonna learn because that thing needs tweaked.”
He mastered one of the last education bills up to a couple years ago in the House in the rules committee, he did that. No one knows that.
Q. Was that committee a good innovation, something that came in when you was in the House?
A. No I would get rid of that thing in a heartbeat, that’s just another way for the speaker to buffer himself and not make a tough decision. I would rather have those decisions and you’re out, I wouldn’t have a rules committee.
Q. Yeah, I’m not sure here that people that remember prior to, do you think part of that with the republicans didn’t know what they really had to do this and they were trying to come up with safeguards as they learned to govern?
A. Uhm, I think some speakers want some buffer. I mean they had a steering committees on point members committees, they had the rules committee, and they had people that was, well Shannon Cooper, I mean he was pretty good rules chair but it was a speakers’ committee.
Q. It was the buffer. No
A. And I just thought that what a waste of time.
Q. So I’m going to ask you this question from the other side, you’re the only person that can give a perspective of both. I always thought one of the main jobs of the speaker was to negotiate with the Senate, to either however you do that negotiation, be it friendly/unfriendly, what advice would you give to Elijah Haahr about dealing with the Senate or his predecessors or his successors?
A. Well, I mean you need to try because you have that, and you need to encourage, sometimes it doesn’t need to be the speaker and the pro tem it’s the chairmen and you encourage those guys to go back and forth because you can’t oversee everything, and if you got good chairmen, you insist that they work with your counterpart you can get a lot of things done.
Now when it comes to final negotiation, I relied on majority leaders to deal with each other but when I dealt with, I had a great relationship with Givens and Shields, and then Todd Richardson and John Diehl, I never had any issues with any of them. We always had, when Steve was there, speaker, and Tim Jones, I just never had any problem. Of course we served together, all those guys. But I think even if you can’t get your chairmen, they’ll work it out. That’s where the power ought to be anyway in all the chairmen both sides.
Q. When you’re the speaker, how do you deal with the governor? You dealt with the governor, speaker of the opposite party for a while. You were in leadership and you saw one of your own party.
A. I mean you have to understand he’s gonna to sign it or not. It’s helpful to have a governor that wants to be engaged but and then when you have a governor that wasn’t engaged, because of a lot of noise this last couple months, it really empowered the legislature to do what they do.
I mean we had the best session we had on the House Senate because the majority leader, Kehoe and me, Todd got together and decided how we’re gonna do it and we weren’t gonna we was gonna let the noise be where it happens and go where it goes, and we were gonna get with our chairmen and do whatever we could and we took over.
And Akin and we thought well the governor can either sign it or not, and we knew what to do. We’ve been there. We had a governor who was a new guy. He barely knew where the restroom was.
Q. So you went from your career is, like I said, with maybe Senator Wasson and maybe throw in, you know, Senator Cunningham with a little break there but you win all 16 years. Is the term limits structure that the state has now the best it can be?
A. Well, I will tell you, you got to send them home sooner or later. Some of these guys, I talked to Jim Madison about that, too. He would have liked to have stayed longer but I think there’s a consensus that sooner or later having good blood is a good idea.
Q. Eight ain’t the right number, thought?
A. If you have term limits at 16 you can do it any combination of House and Senate, 16 in the House, 16 in the Senate because what you lose, you lose good or bad, you lose a lot of institutional knowledge and you need to have that buffer against the bureaucracy that is entrenched and been there for 20, 30, 40 years, doesn’t make any difference what governor it, what party, some of those people are going to be third, going to make decisions and you need to know who they are and what’s the history and also the lobbying core because all of a sudden they were all democrat lobbyists and kumbaya, we took majority off, poof, switched the light.
Now we’re all republican. You need to understand who they are, what they’re going, and not that it has, not it’s all about party, but some of their affiliations, you just need to know the history of it and I think sometimes that goes away and I mean there’s an old saying around there, they’re going to be here longer than you’ll be.
Q. Peter Kinder called you historic figure in Missouri history, accomplishing both, leading both chambers but he said, more to the point, you could tell any lobbyist no and you could tell when most bureaucrats were lying
A. Oh yeah, yeah.
Q. And that’s something that you really can only get over time.
A. Well yeah I guess that’s a good point, yeah I mean you take, kinda.
Q. So Holsman’s idea of 16 total in either chamber might be the move?
A. Well I wasn’t so much opposed to that. I was opposed to resetting the clock and they’d start again. I, you know, but there’s a lot of money on the sideline that helped pass term limits that will come in Missouri, these other states, and push back on that. I’m not sure term limits, I mean it passed by what, 90 percent of the people, what was it 60 percent, it was big majority.
A. So I mean, how do you go against that? That’s when, I told you, when you walked in the door, when you come in, you know when you’re going to leave, so just do what you’re going to do and then leave and let somebody else do it. You don’t really have all the great ideas, and you’re not slickest, the funniest person that’s ever walked in that building.
Q. So 2010, did you ever think about running for Congress?
A. Never had the opportunity.
Q. There was an open seat.
A. Yeah, but here, if you’re not a Springfield guy, you just, you can’t get, you can’t get the muscle to push you over. I mean…
Q. You were Speaker of the House, thought that’s pretty good muscle, right? If were you going to be able to do it, that might have been the time to do it, right?
A. Yeah, I never really thought about it. I’ve been pretty lucky the doors that opened and kind of thing, I was pretty good about thinking one or two steps ahead but that just never really happened and then, if you think about it, you’re going to go, you’re going to fly to DC and work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, fly home, work the district. I mean that’s a lot of work. You got to really be motivated to do that.
I thought I was happy where I was at. I couldn’t believe I was chair of economic development and then when I was speaker, and protem and majority leader, I thought I’d died and went to heaven and I thought I’d really outkicked my coverage.
Q. So you run for Senate and we’re going to pick up there in segment 3. We’ll talk about your time in the Senate and leading the Senate.
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.