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 time in the Senate and plays name associations.
This is the third and final part in a multipart series.
Q. Welcome to our third segment here, we’re at Fourth Street Bowl in an office that many, many, many people that have lead the state have came and talked politics and we’re here to talk politics, third segment about Senator Richard’s time serving in the Senate or and serving as pro tem, thank you for having us here.
A. My pleasure that you come to my business. It’s very gracious of you.
Q. So you filed for Senate and no one files against you?
Q. You probably were Speaker of the House, figured you were gonna win, but did you expect to go two terms unopposed?
A. Oh yeah. Yeah, I mean No. 1, I can outwork everybody and I can raise more money than God. What’s not like to like about that deal?
Q. Tell me about that? I’ve asked you sideways, but I’ll just straight ask: Why can you raise more money than other people?
A. Because I ask them and I have a track record that I do what I say and I mean what I say, and I don’t lie.
Q. But you, just for the campaign people that love campaigns, you set in a room and say I got to raise a million dollars for this campaign to fund whatever you’re gonna fund. Do you just set in a room with a list and start making calls or do you hit the road or both?
A. Get in the car, go see ’em face to face, yeah, and most of the money come from St. Louis.
Q. Can you tell me how, when, if the roles were reversed and you were walking in to raise money, what would that conversation start like? For a young politician, intimidated to raising money, they’d be a good public servant but it’s hard can you give them advice. When you walk into a room, how do you raise that kind of money?
A. Well, No. 1, they knew me anyway because I’d go for two or three years, four years, when I was just elected, and then when I was chair of economic development, I’d go to all the metropolitan areas in all these other cities trying to figure out what they wanted, so when I walked in the room, they knew what I wanted. Bucky Bush, in St. Louis, I went to see him one day, and I got off the elevator, he met me he said I know all about you. He read me a resume, everything I did, what I did in Jeff City, you’re ok, come in and wrote me a check. That happened more times than not.
Mr. McDonnell, McDonnell Douglas said I know you. You’ve done this and this, I wish you could do this and this, here’s a check.
Augie Busch, same thing. I didn’t my hard work set in motion a lot of different things, and I didn’t get a lot of press, but people that was in the know about expanding our economy knew it was done and my actions helped me break that ceiling.
Q. So you get elected to the Senate and the tornado hits Joplin. About what time of the year, tell us where you were when that happened?
A. It was May, I was on my deck I was watching it go by. I thought my wife was nutty, big black cloud, I didn’t know what was going and it went quarter mile over the house and tore up 16 miles long, two miles wide of Joplin. Trapped my motherinlaw and her
Q. Why weren’t you in the basement or somewhere?
A. I don’t have a basement. Patti, I mean, it was a bright day. I didn’t see anything. I just heard a big roar. I didn’t know it was that big a deal. Down in this part of the world, tornados are common, so I didn’t think too much about it. But as it turned out, it was horrible.
Q. When you saw the devastation?
A. It was unbelievable, it is like a lawn mower going through tall grass.
A. When Nixon and I got on the air, helicopter and went through it you see the town, and nothing, it’s like tall grass, two foot high and a mower going through it and that’s what it looked like.
Q. You knew Jay Nixon well from serving in the speaker?
Q. Yeah Nixon is very proud of his work in Joplin?
A. He was very, he was here and did what he needed to do and he was the right guy at the right time. Yeah, he was, he never said no down here. Never said no. And then I returned that favor to him by doing some things for him, too.
Q. Sure. Well there’s definitely, I interviewed him back in December and there was definitely a mutual respect there.
A. Yeah I mean, I always tell everybody in the press that I get along with governors about half the time. That’s just about all you need to because there’s just that ying and yang, but I’ll give you an example. Nixon wanted to bring more jobs to Boeing, to St. Louis from Seattle, and we had to do some Missouri works, quality jobs kind of stuff.
And the Senate didn’t want to do that until we got some tax credit reform, so we go to caucus and we talked, we must have been in there two hours and two or three of the guys were about to reform stuff, and I said well why don’t you let me do this. Let me, let me go to Nixon and say, “If you’ll freeze all the tax credits for three months, a quarter, until we can get some legislation, we’ll go ahead and get this in the Senate and bring Boeing in.”
“Oh okay, “he did. Nixon froze all the credits, the House and Senate, couldn’t decide what he wanted to do to reform tax credits. We got the Senate over to Boeing, 400 jobs and that popped couple over that and that’s how Boeing really started pushing back since McDonnell Douglas, get more presence in St. Louis.
Q. So tell me something about Jay Nixon other people don’t know.
A. Uhm, I traveled with him around the world, too. He got a pretty good sense of humor. When you really got to work through a deal, he’ll keep his word. That’s the highest praise I give anybody.
Q. So in 2012, there was some statewide positions open. You’d even, when you were speaker, even talked about maybe being interested in that, people I’m sure came to you. Why did you not run in 2012?
A. Well the tornado, and I thought Brad logger called me when Kinder pulled out and he was running for governor and Brad was running for Lt. Gov. And he called me and said if you want to run for Lt. Gov. I’ll pull back and let you do it. I said I can’t do that. I said these people down here are depending on somebody to try to get this resolved and I’ve got a good relationship with Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill and I said I just need to pay attention. They didn’t send me here to do another job, run for governor when I got half the town screwed up. What kind of human being would that be, so if that was an opening for me to do something, I chose not to do it, and pay attention to my town.
Q. Any regrets, not running statewide?
A. No, I mean, I guess I could do it again if I wanted to, but you know, I probably could have gotten that lieutenant governor’s thing but wisely they picked Mike Kehoe, he’s the best, that guy may be one of the best negotiators, he was a great senator, he lives there, he’s got a great future, I mean that was a wise pick. Parson is really great on transportation. I guess, I might have been able to get in the middle of it. I’m glad I chose not to.
Q. You get elected in 2010, later that week, there’s a vote for protem. Kevin Engler was someone that thought was probably the conventional wisdom pick. Rob Mayer ends up so I don’t know if this is even kosher to ask but I’ll shoot anyway. Did they really draw straws in that room?
A. Oh yeah.
Q. What was that room like? That’s an interesting part of Missouri history that doesn’t really get talked about much?
A. Well there’s some unwritten rule that if you end up having a tie after three or four, you draw straws and I thought that’s crazy, you ought to be voting till there’s a winner, and I’ve kind of changed that, thank goodness hasn’t happened since then. I don’t even remember, I think I was an Engler guy, I think and I remember Kevin was majority lead and usually I’m pretty traditional about do a job, but yeah, they draw straws.
Q. There’s a lot of contention followed that the next couple years in the caucus?
A. Well to Rob’s credit, I mean it’s hard building consensus when you win by drawing straws. Using your words. I mean he didn’t, you didn’t have 18, a number of group that you could build on a power structure and he always had to fight the undercurrents of maybe I should be here and maybe I shouldn’t be here.
Q. I mean that was a big freshman class as well in 2010. Did you guys look around and think what the hell are these guys thinking? This is not the most organized thing.
A. Oh yeah, I thought I wouldn’t run again. It was so bad that first couple of years, with some of the nonsense going on that I thought I wouldn’t run again. Jay and I, we’d get so sick of listening to that nonsense we go back and play gin, couldn’t stand to look at it.
Q. Callahan says he might have been the leader of the largest actual faction in the Senate, the democrats, the republicans were pretty divided against each other?
A. Yeah and actually some of our guys were with Callahan. He made a lot of sense on a lot of issues. I mean some of the labors or, and Torte wasn’t too bad, but you know because he was a pretty good broker, and he was an honest broker, it was the republicans got him appointed to the tax commission. And then Callahan was one of the votes helping ag when they did that property tax, not raising that property tax. I mean the guy sees both sides of it.
Q. So the China hub to me was like that special session might have been the height of the dysfunction. You’re an economic development guy. What happened?
A. Well, as I remember, it just, we had a lot of issues with the airport and then with the warehouses within the area trying to get that, I mean I think it was too big a bite at the apple. It’s still a pretty good idea, that hub. Just never could come together on a cohesive plan of what it should look like.
Q. Was it still problems emanating out of that drawing straws?
A. I don’t think so. I think because of some credits, because of some stuff with Paul McKee, with I get like the warehousing piece, I just don’t think it ever really had a solid plan of what the vision would be.
Q. Watching leadership going the fly around, and say this is what we’re gonna do, and then did you learn anything from that that helped you?
A. Yeah, you forgot to ask the members if you had the authority to go out and promise that, because that was also done by Steve and Rob when they went out and promised right to work and couldn’t deliver. Remember that one?
Q. I remember that one but I remember the China hub one.
A. Yeah, you need to check your whole card, make sure. You know, it’s like an old Roman soldier said you can lead the charge you got to figure out if anybody is behind you, charging up the hill. I always check behind me to see if I had someone charging up the hill with me.
Q. Did some of that dysfunction, I would think a person that’s been in charge of a business, been a mayor, been a speaker, did that help motivate you to run for leadership the next session. Was that part of the motivating factor?
A. No, I didn’t really care about it. I got elected again. Dan Brown nominated me, had the votes and that’s fine. But I did take as much power as I could from the protem as well as the speaker and give to those chairmen and make sure that they, I knew what their vision was. I don’t have to go to work. And I made sure that I knew their, I knew what was on their mind, why you’re dealing with you microphones.
Q. While we’re rejigging microphones here?
A. I wanted to know their mind and then I could negotiate and do some things but no, I really wasn’t a “This is the way it’s gonna be,” a firm, a big we need to do some higher ed and have good job training. We need economic development, break it up in pieces, gonna do legal reform, gonna do some reform on education, been some bits and pieces, I asked the chairman how they gonna fund it and that’s why we never lost.
Q. Did you know in the Senate though you wanted to be in leadership when you got there?
A. I wanted to chair economic development what Schmidt was doing and this would be just fine. No I had no vision of being leadership in House or Senate.
Q. So it was Senator Brown that first come to you and said you should run for the race and there’s the votes?
A. No, he said you’re gonna win because I already got the votes.
Q. If you don’t mind, when did he say that, what month? After the primary?
A. He said about a week before the election of leadership.
Q. Looking back on it, there were three contested primaries that elected republicans. It looked like maybe those three people in those primaries are probably supporters of yours. Did that affect your decision or that vote counting?
A. Who are you talking about?
Q. When Ed Emory beat Scott Largen SP?
A. Oh yeah although helped both get elected so I mean I don’t even know if.
Q. Cunningham, Wayne Mollingford?
A. Yeah I mean I guess. I mean I didn’t go out and ask him. Dan Brown did and for whatever reason, they liked my leadership style. I think they liked the fact that I talked to the caucus members and gave ’em the truth as I saw it. And I could help ’em get elected by my hard work and my fundraising and they knew I could help with the majority.
Q. So you, the person you defeated was Mike Parson for the full ____________________ race. Coming out of that, I watched, after that drawing straw, I know that Senator Engler had some misgivings about the situation. Mike Parson showed back up in January and seemed to have a very different feeling, seemed like he was going to contribute and he had, you know, at the time he probably had about six years left, your relationship with him seemed to improve pretty quick?
A. Yeah he was, I mean you just can’t, you just cannot hold grudges. He was one of our important chairmen and then I kid him about it, I said, you know, “if it hadn’t been for that race, you wouldn’t have been governor.”
Q. If it had went differently would you be governor right now?
A. No, probably Kehoe would be or somebody else.
Q. But in that, I mean he couldn’t have been as successful as he was without you agreeing to move forward and help him, right?
A. Well he had a good vision on his committee, and he sent out good stuff, and it’s easy for a guy in leadership, when you have good chairmen, sending good stuff, put it on the calendar, let the majority leader do. Makes my job easy. I didn’t tell him what to, I didn’t tell any of these guys what to do. I told pat, go to caucus, what are your priorities, get 30 or 40 bills, teed up, of all the members and then we would filter in everybody else’s but we made that a decision, when we talked together, so it was easy for me to know what the priorities are and I get it stacked up and get on debate and some we passed and some we didn’t.
Q. Talk about your relationship with David Humphries?
A. Yeah I knew his dad when he owned Tamko and then David and I became friends and I don’t know, not a close relationship, but he’s, he is, he has got, he likes to help Joplin. I mean he is if it hadn’t been for him during that tornado or creating jobs and companies around here, I mean, we would have been a lot less. He’s a pretty good corporate citizen.
Q. I found this the case with Rex Sinquefield and with Mr. Humphreys. It’s an interesting thing the people that want to attack them. I thought it was like so Governor Nixon took 50 grand from the teamsters or UAW or something after session. Now Governor Nixon was always pro labor, he campaigned on it. That was a seminal thing. You raised money from David Humphries and you have been prpro-torteform, pro labor, as far as I’ve ever known you. It wasn’t like you switched position. Do you think some of those attacks get overheated and unfair?
A. Oh yeah but it’s politics, so why not worry about it. I mean just don’t worry about it. I mean not everybody can be thoughtful or, you know, it’s been business going on like that since George Washington and, I mean you don’t want to look at a nasty debate, look at Webster and Abraham Lincoln. It’s supposed to be a caldron of, that you churn and you burn and you flesh out ideas. It’s not supposed to be a nambypamby you’re a nice guy.
Q. How do you deal with being attacked like that?
A. Well that one time I didn’t do too well. I should have.
Q. How does your wife and family deal with those attacks?
A. Oh she takes it serious, she takes it personal but then I, they don’t like it but it’s the name of the game. It never bothered me.
Q. Do you have a piece of advice to a guy right now running for state rep in say whatever Missouri and he gets a call from his wife to come home because she got a mail piece saying he’s a dastardly figure, how do you deal with that?
A. Tear it up and don’t read any more.
Q. How do you explain that to your wife?
A. Very carefully because they. [LAUGHTER]. She’s personal. I mean I tell what you, I thought, she tells a story, too, Patti is a character. We were, Greitens had just got elected, he ways calling a bunch of low life, political, whatever we were and I just didn’t pay much attention but she took it personal and we were at Lincoln days and he was coming up, Greitens, I was working on something and she was gonna throttle him. I don’t know if she was gonna test his golden gloves or something and she said you know what saved his life? I said I have no idea. Catherine Hanaway come up and started talking about something else. That saved his life because I was going to throttle him, calling you guys career corrupt politicians and even the guys I don’t get along with in the House and Senate, I don’t know anyone that’s a career politics term limits and corrupt? Maybe make bad decisions, I don’t know anyone that’s been corrupt.
Q. Do you think that word is thrown around too much?
A. Oh heck yeah. Even in DC. If it was corrupt, you’d have somebody knocking on your door throwing you in the calaboose.
Q. Speaking of Eric Greitens, the guy starts running, I guess in 2015 Lincoln Day. What was your first impression of him?
A. He was sure sure of himself. That’s kind of my first impression. I said this guy is really sure of himself. He’s got a lot of people around that I never heard of and never saw, some high powered people. Ole George Peach, whatever his name was.
I tell you a story. I was setting, and I try to make all governors, we go to the inauguration and Governor Greitens walk in with the Georgia Peach, and I said Governor anything I can do your first inauguration you won by a pretty big number. What can I do to help?
He said we got a new idea and then this guy George Peach, well we’re gonna, we’ve rented Mizzou arena and we’re going to open up to the whole state and dress in jeans and white shirts and we’re going to have two cowboy bands. I said well Governor, that’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard in my whole life and we ain’t going.
The Senate is not going. I picked up the phone and called the Speaker, he’s not going. I called everybody, all the statewide, I called Parson, Lt. Gov. He ain’t going. I said now have a good time. I got people worked lifetime walking down those marble steps in that beautiful building, with their wives and kids that’s gonna be there and I called Hancock, the chair, I said Hancock, go raise me 300,000 grand you’re putting on a party because the governor is not coming. Two days later he said I guess we’ll come. I said good idea. You’ll be glad I made you do this and it turned out.
Q. How many other, Senator Watson talked about how you respected the rules, written and unwritten, of the Senate. How many other things like that are there that are, I mean I guess a question like that you almost have to see and remember them?
A. Unwritten rules? Well you take the Senate, we’re the only senate in the state, in the country that you set democrats, republicans intermixed. Not separated. A lot of senates are separated. And the founders decided to do that so that you wouldn’t necessarily vote as a bloc. You would vote your own conscience, and that’s worked pretty well I mean. But it is a tradition, it’s also tradition that whatever appointment is made, through advice/consent you go to that senator where that person is from and get their okay. And that’s not a written rule but we respect that and we go by that because if that senator, isn’t okay with that appointment, doesn’t get a hearing. Never appointed.
Q. Back to again Governor Nixon’s time, probably one of the darkest times was during Ferguson and some of the unrest at Mizzou. I think it’s hard for some of the people that listen to this is to understand outstate Missouri’s view of that. What’s your view of that as somebody that’s from St. Louis, helped, lived in St. Louis, from Joplin?
A. I just don’t know what, what happened, I mean I just wasn’t involved in that. I do know that whatever happened to Mizzou, it cost them a whole bunch of kids and parents were upset.
Q. Do you think it’s cost St. Louis a similar type of hardship?
A. Well maybe then. I don’t think it has any more because apparently there’s been a recognition that there’s been some problems, they’re working through it. I mean Schmidt had that Senate Bill 5, I think that was started, I think democrats, republicans have tried to figure out a way to make things better, I hope so I mean. I really just don’t know how that happened, what happened. And I wasn’t brought in on the police side or the public safety side, so I don’t know really what happened.
Q. The first tax cut came under your time in the Senate. I’ve listened to you temper some of your colleagues about cutting taxes too much?
A. Well, what I wanted, what I reminded is make sure you understand the ramifications of the tax cuts that you had before you get anxious about another one. I mean you don’t want to go too far without understanding you still have to do business. That’s not to say that tax reduction is not important. I just don’t want, I just felt that you shouldn’t go too fast, and make sure you cut expenses at the same time and sometimes that neither one of them worked so, I’m just, you know, move slow. I think the machine works better when you move slow and you don’t make any mistakes.
Q. Interesting part of republican politics is guns and abortion, probably the two things folks run on more than anything else. I’ve watched you be very progun but even sometimes SHAR relaw?? and outlawing federal stats. Do you think republicans run the risk of trying to maybe overpreen and prompt on those issues?
A. Well I guess could you say that. However, if you remember Tom Dempsey I killed a gun bill. You think that was pleasurable? I had to have the police in Joplin guard my house. I had my grandkids inside for five days because they was gonna shoot me. I had threats on my wife, my grandkids and me. Because I killed that bill and the bill was unconstitutional. It wouldn’t allow cooperation between locals and fed, and it also had a provision that if you had a child at a school that, and you had some public safety officers doing some things that they wouldn’t have to go to the parent. I mean it was, it was froth with wrong decisions and I just said I can’t make myself vote for this thing and I had some guys in the Senate that should have voted with me and didn’t but and they asked me, couple of them asked me, I said don’t worry about it, you’re up for election, go ahead and do it, I’ll take, Dempsey and I said we’ll take one for the team and we did.
Q. There was a lot of people, I thought, that left that chamber glad you did that and wishing they would have but not really wanting to take hiding their grandkids five days over it?
A. I think so.
Q. You’re talking about one that I actually stayed, it was a thing called SGR39, something to do with gay people?
A. Oh that Cape thing that Onder did.
Q. I stayed that night all night. I thought you guys were going to be done and something happened and you weren’t so I took the 11:00 to 6:00 or 8:00 in the morning shift. I did not sense people in leadership very proud or happy with how that ended where you PQed that?
A. You had to get out of it. We couldn’t get to a compromise.
Q. Could you not have laid it over?
A. I couldn’t get that person to do that.
Q. If you had your marble back, would that end that way?
A. I would probably, see we were in filibuster for 80 some hours straight and I was on the dais for maybe some 60 hours, or maybe 70, I didn’t take too much time off because there was a lot of points of order I had to rule on and just a lot of stuff going on in the Senate.
You know, I think, out of probably would have worked with Sifton a little harder to get a compromise, try to get earlier. However, every four hours, I asked my caucus, “Are you wanting to continue or do you want to stop?” And they all said we want to continue. We think it’s worth the battle so I didn’t make that decision by myself. Kehoe and I didn’t make that decision by ourself. We checked with the caucus every four hours for 80 hours.
Q. Do you think it turned into a “we’re not gonna lose” instead of “we’re really glad of what we’re gonna do”?
A. Oh yeah, both sides and that probably set a standard for what happened after that on some issues with will you take that bill, well, a number of labor bills and tort bills that we managed to get through without moving the previous question because I think people didn’t want to get in that situation again. I was sitting there with Schmidt and Schafer was trying and Kehoe was trying to figure out how to get out of that, take something to caucus and we finally did and I was on the dais and moved the previous question, but as it turned out it’s the right decision, I don’t know, the Supreme Court justified, U.S. Supreme Court ruled on it, what, last year, so maybe it’s right, maybe it’s wrong, I don’t know, but that probably could have handled it little better.
Q. You PQed passing right to work once. It looked as though your caucus left feeling that that was warranted and they felt good about it. The time Nixon vetoed it. I didn’t see that after you left over the thing. You PQed an abortion bill in veto session. It looked like your caucus felt they were doing the right thing. I didn’t take that up that night.
A. Well, and that’s why, there was a sense that members weren’t sure they was on solid ground. That’s why I checked with them, Kehoe and I checked with them every four or five hours and they said to continue. I mean we had to pull the plug because Mike could have laid it over or we could adjourn and stopped debate. We could have done something parliamentary and got out of it but they wanted to continue. Again I go back to these members. We go where they want to go. And they thought it was important. Now twothirds into that, some of them probably wished they hadn’t of, but there’s probably something that we could have worked out a little bit better.
Q. Tell me about passing right to work to the first time even though the governor vetoed it.
A. Well governor vetoed anyway.
Q. You made several points of order, it had a feeling, it had a heavy air to it and it had a feeling like that it must have been a heck of an accomplishment when you left that Senate?
A. Well the Senate passed right to work and House couldn’t pass it and then we passed it. I believe in my heart, I’ve traveled with, I have traveled with Bob Holden and we were talking to Japanese in New York City, because I was trying to figure out an angle to get that Toyota truck plant away from San Antonio. I said what is going to take for Missouri to get a Toyota plant and the Japanese assistants said, “You got to have some regulatory reform. You guys are moving towards that. You got to have a decent pool of labor and I think you’re probably in good shape for that and you got to have a utility schedule that’s reasonable and got to have right to work,” and I thought Bob Holden was gonna to choke, said it right in front of me and Bob Holden and then after doing economic development as mayor and r going around the state, I believe it’s a catalyst that’s a win for everybody. I don’t believe that it cuts pay and if you look at the states, unions are growing in nonunion states because business is thriving. We’re hosting this event in St. Louis in a few days. Most of the states if not all are right to work are in competition, the reason I’m in the southern lay conference is to see what they’re doing, as far as transportation, job creation, with which Nixon, our economic development department is modeling after Georgia and Alabama which I think it gets done we’re going to have a model that’s gonna be better than anybody that we have been working on seven or eight years, we just couldn’t find the right model and right to work, I think Texas, Florida, it’s something, whether it passes or not, I don’t know, but it’s out there. I think it’s a good idea. People think it’s not.
Q. That’s one override you didn’t do of Nixon but you override Nixon a ton, more than any other governor. Feel good about him, too many? I think he may feel like there was a little too many vetoes when I interviewed him, maybe a little too quick with him?
A. Maybe, but we had trouble dealing with some of his staff, of trying to negotiate before we got there. I mean he’ll tell you as a former senator, too, that you know we have a direction, we think it’s important, and we’d like to had a little compromise and at the end of the day, we won.
Q. A lot of times. Talking about the trip to Normandy Ryan McKenna told me you the story were you at Normandy?
A. McKenna and me and Jay Nixon.
Q. And he said a little girl walked up and thanked you for being an American and what American had done for her village?
A. Governor Nixon, I was privileged enough to go to the air show with him a couple of times. We made a side trip to Normandy and we’re sitting there and this couple comes up and you can tell they were poor, but they had on their best clothes, an old French village down the road, and they’re coming up and this little girl has a poem and Governor Nixon has that poem. I wished I had a copy, you ought to ask him for that, he still has it, and during, when the Normandy invasion, there was some U.S. or British, we believe they’re U.S., fighter pilots circling and one got shot down and was headed for the village and this fighter pilot pushed this plane over and landed outside the village to save the village.
To that day and it turned out to be an American flyer, and that French community comes every year and decorates that flyer’s grave every year and if you go to Normandy and look at these graves, the nicest graveyard, Arlington, whatever, in the United States, doesn’t bear a candle to what’s at Normandy. There isn’t a blade of grass out, they’re all in line and all decorated and Normandy and step more, you go to Belgium and they’re really serious about the American GIs and all the allied forces, and the respect they give, and they did, they thanked the Governor and McKenna and I, and you know, I’m not too soft hearted but just choked you up this little girl and she’s got to be five generations away from this happened, but that community never lost the GIs that lost their life, coming over as allies.
Q. You take a trip with Governor Nixon. You probably know more about the job than anybody running at the time. Did you think about running for governor in 2016?
A. No, I walked, we walked into NATO and I was walking, Governor Nixon was talking to someone, I walked ahead and I walked into some four star and he was telling me this and this and I said this, and he said well governor I’m trying to explain what we’re doing, we’re getting ready to build this big NATO, this is 60 years old.
I said well governor (sic), I don’t want to embarrass you but I’m not the governor, I combed my hair a bit different, and Nixon and I did look a bit similar there but no, I didn’t think I was going to run for governor. You know, you got to be a cut above. There’s a couple other people, Parson is going to be a good governor, Mike Kehoe is going to be a good governor, if he gets a chance, he’ll be a great lieutenant Governor, there’s some other people coming up through the ranks, and besides I’m 71 years old. I started at 55. You got to.
Q. Well how old is Parson?
A. Early 60s.
Q. A little behind you?
A. Ten years but that’s a lot, that’s 24/7, you know I’ve did 24/7 in the House and in the Senate and that takes a toll on you.
Q. Sure so when you?
A. That place will kill you if you let it. The capital will kill you if you let it.
Q. You’ve watched a lot of races. I figured you had at least a week or two when you thought Eric Greitens would win the governor’s race?
A. Yeah, I mean I just check the polling. It is what it was.
Q. Did you think after he won that would be a personal relationship or a communication that would be different than the campaign rhetoric?
A. Yeah I did Bob Holden’s economic development, I did Matt Blunt, Jay Nixon, all of them I thought would be some sort of back and forth but there was none. He was pretty tight.
Q. After the election, did you meet with him?
A. Not very often. Occasionally, but you know he was feeling his way. I wish he’d a just let me have my head I would have made him a hero, I wasn’t going to embarrass anybody, but he had a different perspective.
Q. Some of it was good?
A. Yeah some was good. He was just hard to figure out, you know, he just didn’t.
Q. The story I’ve written about that I found interesting, there was a night early on about the pay increase, and he starts the debate, it wasn’t the night it went into effect, it was the night before and you guys have a few people that are I think Senator Brown wasn’t there yet or something and people start objecting that they’re not going to vote and he starts tweeting, and then he ends up I guess is it in your office?
A. Yeah he want to come down and see if he could visit with some of the senators, I said no, that’s fine, come down, he did. I was there for one or two of his meetings for a few minutes. It got a little intense so I left. I didn’t really care about him, the way some of my senators were treated so I left.
Q. It looked from the popcorn gallery I get to sit and watch in that after that night, you became more protective of some of your members?
A. Well I had to.
Q. It looked like that night was a change in a little bit of your demeanor towards the second floor?
A. Yeah, yeah we went on the offense pretty good. We went on the offense.
Q. So early on right to work passes, comes right out of the chute. And the governor is going, you know the governor is going to sign, he does sign it. That’s a piece of legislation you worked a long time on, had to have some pride of authorship in that, didn’t you?
A. I didn’t author it. It was one of my chairmen, I let them do it.
Q. But it’s a policy you championed, fair enough?
A. I made sure, well Governor Parson came out of his committee. He helped. Got to the floor. Team effort. But you know, we won.
Q. So think back, you look back on that, it came out very early, I would have thought it was a little bit of a hat tip to the democrats that they didn’t make you PQ it. You ran on it, it passed without a PQ. The way it turned out, it gave labor unions a chance to put it on the ballot as sort of referendum to overturn it. Would you have waited a little more longer in session to maybe it harder
A. Probably not because the ballot initiative would have come the next year. I don’t think that would have made any difference. I think we had an opening. We did it.
Q. For those listening to his a long time from now we’re talking about this in mid July before the referendum in mid August?
A. Who knows how that will turn out.
Q. You had to guess now how does it turn out?
A. You look at the polling you’re not too excited but then again there’s other forces that I would hope come to bear that would give the other side of the story, but it is what it is. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.
Q. Do you think Missouri will be a right to work state?
A. Some day.
Q. A matter of when, not if?
A. Yes, competition will demand it.
Q. If were you in the Senate in January would you pass the bill again even if it goes down to defeat in August?
A. If it went down to defeat? I would make a move to make it statutorily but I’d probably give it a year to get all my people together. I’d probably give it a breath of air.
Q. So one of the things that I think a lot of the state looked at you on is when Governor Greitens started kind of blowing up these state boards, whether it was housing development board or the board of education.
As an observer of your career it looked like going around the Senate with unconfirmed people and trying to enact policies that weren’t in statute, that looked like the kind of thing that would not set well with you?
A. Yeah that appointments thing, that could have been handled better. I mean, when you go against the Senate tradition of the appointments, that could have been handled better. But the housing development commission, we’ve always had a battle since I was speaker about what to do with tax credits, and I talked and told you the story about Nixon holding credits for a quarter and I told Greitens, I said if I was you, I wouldn’t issue any credit and have the tax credit people come and let’s negotiate a final outcome.
Well he did. He didn’t issue any credits and I don’t know if tax credit people were hollering, they were coming to me, they was beginning a formation of a plan. I never did see what the end result was but I think this year is going to be the same thing. I don’t think Governor Parson gonna, we’re going to meet and try to figure a way to get the federal credit on some of these so there’s some, we think we can issue that. I think he’s right on, but on the other credits, on low income and historic, I think we’re going to need some reform which is the same thing Greitens. I think that’s correct, I think we do need some reforms on tax credits. I think Crowell is right on some of those reforms.
Q. So the state of the state, this past year, the capital was buzzing like it does when there’s these types of things that have happened, somewhat often. You’re getting ready for the state of the state speech. It had the most bizarre feel of any room I’d ever been in?
A. Yeah and that was, I hadn’t been on the dais in the House since I was speaker and then I’m going up as what am I? Am I president of the Senate? Am I lieutenant governor, if Parson? Yeah, a lot of uncertainty, and Governor Parson is, you know, nervous. But you know the speech went well, and everything kind of calmed down and I think he’s done.
Q. I mean, I’m talking about when you the state of the state speech in January?
A. Oh that, for Greitens?
Q. Yeah, that was the weirdest room I had ever been in?
A. Yeah that, I thought you was talking about Parson. That one, I’m not sure what that, because I looked at Kehoe after that, I said, “What was that?”
Q. So you had heard what everybody else had heard, I’m sure.
A. Yes and who was that? Yeah, damnedest thing I’d ever heard. Not sure what the point was or where it was going or whatever.
Q. He had a reception in his office as is somewhat customary. Did you go?
A. You know, I went. Yeah, I had an invitation. Private reception to visit with a governor and walked in there, was there, it was about 400 people in there. I turned around and walked out.
Q. Well you almost have a bizarre curiosity with everything going around?
A. I mean if you want to have a private reception, I thought we might have wanted to kind of get down to basics. I couldn’t figure out what was going on so I just went on to do something else and let the other people congratulate him and I’d done that before anyways so I didn’t need to congratulate him again.
Q. That night when the story broke later on that night, where were you at?
A. I don’t even remember.
Q. Because it was a couple hours after the speech I guess?
A. Uhm, I don’t remember, I was doing something in the Senate, I have no idea.
Q. So after the story came out and did the governor reach out to you, to try to talk to you about that he wanted to stay and going forward?
A. Yeah and said it wasn’t true and this and that and I said well good luck to you. I guess we’ll figure it out and I just, I just, you know, when you get into that kind of allegations, true or not, I just figure the process will work through it.
Q. You’ve watched a lot of politicians, a lot of governors even, you know people pretty well. You know politics pretty well. Did you think he would give another state of the state?
A. I figured he’d never leave, yeah. I figured his personality wouldn’t let him leave. But you know issues got to a point that may or may not ever get out in public a lot of it, but he needed to go, because some of the things that he was doing was, and has nothing to do with that, with the woman, with campaign and movement and that other kind of stuff. He probably should have left. It was pretty serious.
Q. I know when you made your public announcement, but I would have a personal suspicion you felt he should resign before you made it public. About when did you think that would happen?
A. We thought he would have but you don’t take lightly calling on someone to resign or at least chastise them and this is pretty serious and it’s a little heart wrenching but I thought he would, sooner than he did, and not let those stuff stack up and I think Key and I went to him and try to convince him, “Why put yourself and your family through this stuff and let it work out.”
Q. What was that like?
A. Well, we had a number of people that was wanting to take a more forceful approach in the House and the Senate of pushing him out and, you know, I didn’t know if it was true or not. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. But there was enough there that I thought, in a way, we were pretty late about calling for his resignation. [Tapping] But after I visited with the speaker and some of the prosecution and things, we felt it was time.
Q. When did you go to the Governor and suggest maybe saving his family the trouble?
A. I didn’t do that.
Q. Oh. You have what looks to me, I think the state knows now pretty special relationship with Todd Richardson. It looks like that became, it went from a good relationship to maybe something special the last six months. Can you kind of give folks an insight into how that relationship became what it is today?
A. Well having done his job, as speaker, I knew what he’s facing coming in, in trying circumstances what he did, and this is even before with the governor’s stuff. So I just wanted to make sure, I mean and I had some rough encounters with the Senate. I want to make sure that he and I had an open dialogue and that he wasn’t intimidated is not the right word he wasn’t trying to manage a super majority. That he wasn’t gonna have to waste time on worrying about a relationship with me, so we just cut through it, and yeah, he’s great, very smart, people respect him. He could, there’s a guy that’s probably gonna move on. We talked about a couple names but there’s a guy, I thought he’d probably, and he may, if Hawley gets elected, he would be a great pick for Attorney General or something.
Q. Let’s talk about prevailing wage reform. Some paycheck stuff, just the tort reform stuff. You really, was it, maybe it’s a lesson to Mike Parson that if the governor just stays out of it completely, tax cut?
A. Well we knew what we wanted to do and I mean we had it going on both sides, that when the speaker and the president of the Senate have a common mind, they can move mountains. And the three legged stool you have at the executive branch gets in the middle of it, nothing can stop you.
Q. For posterity sake in the middle of that session you had to start at least thinking about preparing a slate of judges?
A. I did.
Q. How do you, just for history’s sake do you try to partisan partisan, geography, how do you do something like that, through history?
A. Well I called a number of judges, Dwayne Benton, Steve Limbaugh, Ray Price, couple others, that there’s a lady in Columbia who is on the Supreme Court I’ve lost her name right now and trying to get up a sense of what to do when the judges take the caucus and I told him what I was doing, just try to figure out and then I thought I was gonna go to all appellate judge, do some in the east, some in the west, some in the south, and then we had to go to the presiding judges of those and see if there’s any conflict of interest. There was, for whatever reason. And some would not, possibly, not be able to serve and so then I decide to go.
Q. What would those conflicts have been?
A. Maybe they ruled on some, something with, in St. Louis, maybe ruling on something with the governor, maybe they had a relationship, maybe they knew him, who knows. They didn’t tell me, maybe they had a conflict with some of knowing me, some of them knowing Todd or something, you know. And then so I’m gonna go and get some other regional courts, so I kind of had a mix between all different courts and stuff and men and women, democrats, republicans, and then it stopped. We had, we were on, I was getting ready to take it to the Senate and have them look and see what they thought of these names and stuff.
Q. So you had a slate prepared?
A. I was pretty close to narrowing it down.
Q. And it was appellate court judges?
A. It was a half appellate and half judicial court.
Q. Would that have been like the senior judge or the senior circuit or whatever?
A. Not necessarily. What I and I didn’t really care about politics, I was looking for somebody who could make a decision, someone who was, the decision would stand the test of time, and firm, and.
Q. When you were done, did that list look like a regionally balanced
A. Well I would have. I never got that far because I was still
Q. What’s that, that’s legitimate history?
A. Well, it’s something you stay awake at night. I have a window in the prescience, I call my old window, and when, and I had one in the House, and every time you don’t know what to do, I’d go oh dang, my old dang window, and I look out that and I asked Todd, I said which one is your old dang window? The same window I looked out of, because that room, the speaker’s office is the loneliest room in the whole building, when you got the weight of the world and what he had to go through, and I told him, Kehoe and I went over there and said, Todd, whatever you want to do, we’ll help you, but keep in mind, you are making history of what people are going to look at how you handle yourself, how the House handles itself and what the decisions you’re making. Now if I can help but I can’t make the decision for you, but I’ll be there for you if you need me and we. I mean Todd and I talked, I don’t know maybe every day, sometimes four or five times a day, Kehoe and Vescovo and towards the end, maybe hour, the dangest communication effort I’ve ever seen on leadership on both sides and that’s how we managed to get lucky on the past couple days and passing anything but Todd was very respectful what he did and those judges I did the same thing. I talked to him about that. I talked to him about the judges. I wasn’t going to deal in a vacuum about that and talked to him about judges and we both understand that people are going to look at how we handled this and try not to make a mistake but it’s something you live, I mean I can’t tell you, I mean, how many times you lay awake trying to make sure if you’re guiding that ship, or you make a mistake or is everything going right?
Q. Let me run through some folks just word association, something you would associate with Peter Kinder?
A. A leader that got us started when he took the majority in the Senate and taught us and the House a little bit, because he was there a few years before us and taught us how to govern.
Q. Jay Nixon?
A. Kept his word, started off pretty rocky, but he and I managed to work through that, as it should, and.
Q. Tom Dempsey?
A. Yeah Tom was a really good guy, everybody liked Tom and he did a good job. He was the right man at the right time, he was a good president, he was good majority leader in the House, really good majority leader in the House, too.
Q. David Humphries?
A. Yeah, he’s a good community man and he’ll say what’s on his mind and follow it up with a checkbook.
Q. Matt Blunt?
A. Matt was a very circumspect, deep thinker, good to get along with, work with, but he thought through the issues more than he gets credit for.
Q. Dan Mehan?
A. Dan, he wants everything right now, and he circled the wagons, he’s very good about grassroots and helping us understand what’s on business’ mind and he’s a good organizer of that, and yeah, he’s very well thought of in the building.
Q. Mike Cunningham?
A. Yeah, Mike Cunningham is sneaky smart. He was a city manager, he worked for CocaCola U.S.A. that’s why I put him in a lot of key chairmanships. I mean people don’t know how smart he really is.
Q. David Barklage?
A. Oh the Dark Knight? Is probably as good a political mind as ever been in the business and we’ve worked through a lot of issues, he helped in both majorities, when I was speaker and yeah he’s.
Q. Victor Callahan?
A. I was, I went to a fundraiser for him. Fred Kracke drew me to fundraiser, Callahan walks out and says, What are you at a fundraiser for me for? I said I just I heard you’re pretty good guy, come to see you.
Man of his word, very smart. There’s a guy if you got a debate with him you better lace up your shoes because he knew everything about debate and he knew how to do it. Very smart and very well spoken. And maybe the best debater ever to be in the Senate.
Q. Elijah Haahr?
A. Elijah is a soft spoken guy, but he’s got all the leadership qualities and you know good attorney. I think he’s gonna do fine. I mean I don’t know him that well because mostly I was dealing with Todd but I think he got a good lesson from Todd in how to rule the ship. I mean you can’t go through more difficult times than what the speaker Richardson had and I think Elijah was probably is a good thing that he was there just to watch.
Q. Paul Moton SP?
A. Paul, he has worked for different republican operatives and he’s a nice guy, lives around town, his wife is a friend of my wife’s.
Q. Mike Kehoe?
A. Kehoe may be the best majority leader I’ve ever seen. Able to negotiate. Everybody likes him. And he had me being the bad guy. That helped him negotiate, but he’s gonna be, he’ll be _____all of us, a lot to offer, very well spoken, knows the issues, I mean it’s not very often you get lucky enough on a leadership that you can look a guy and know what his next move is and I knew that with Mike and Mike and he was able to negotiate democrats, republicans, and we had a stellar years under him, stellar years. To his credit because it was his calendar.
Q. Jeff Roe SP?
A. Jeff and I became friends when he worked for Graves in DC and invited me to testify before Graves’ committee on business issues years ago. Yeah, I’ve known Jeff a long time. I mean the guy is so smart, it’s amazing how his company, he’s buying companies and stuff, he’s very, a political force that I consult as often as I can because he’s very smart.
Q. Jay Wasson SP?
A. Yeah Jay is my buddy. I can tell you some stories about him, some of them I can tell you on the screen, but can’t, but a good solid fella. Everybody loves Jay. That’s why I had him work on my campaigns and get my leadership races, he was my vote counter and put together the team. He’s as loyal as a human being that ever was and he and I are very close.
Q. Eric Schmidt?
A. Eric is another guy, great economic development chair and understood some synergy in St. Louis when he did Senate Bill 5 and had to do something because I used to raise cane about driving on the inner belt coming through Shylock down to 30 miles per hour so you don’t get the north inner belt and get that ticket and we were kidding about that.
There’s another guy going to go a long way, very smart. And you know when he, when he had his son there and he was talking about some of that oil that might help his son for the cannabis oil, I mean another good debater, but I’ve never heard, there was not a dry eye or a pin drop on that debate, it still resonates in that hall. If you listen quiet enough you can hear people past debate but you can still hear Eric Schmidt talking about his son that day.
Q. Gina Walsh?
A. Yeah Gina is a good partner, she’s got a tough job at minority but she keeps her word and works for the issues and very well thought of. She’s probably passed as much legislation as some republicans.
We had the one before her, Keaveny, he probably passed more legislation than republicans because he had so much trust, because an attorney, he is a trust attorney, he does all our trust bills. We go to Keaveny and bang bang bang that’s some things we are proud of and Gina did some good things on education, on some business issues.
Q. Rob Vescovo?
A. You know I don’t know him as well as Kehoe did. I spent most of my time with the speaker but he reminds me of me. He tells you what’s on his mind but he appears to be very well managed, very organized, wants to win. I like that.
Q. Speaking of Jefferson County, Ryan McKenna?
A. Oh McKenna, he’s a good one, him and his dad both. McKenna was not very partisan. He was easy to work with and just a nice guy. I think he’s lobbing now for junior colleges. Junior college that is the kind of guy they need because he gets along with everybody.
Q. I think he also does the best Ron Richardson impersonation of anybody in the capital?
A. I’m not sure what that was.
Q. He’ll do an impersonation of you sometimes that is good enough that it’s respectful.
A. Well I did one of him, when he was over there and with some of his Irish brethren and so we have had a pretty good time, nice guy.
Q. What about Caleb Rowden?
A. Upcoming star, very smart, and he’s a nice young guy, yeah he’s got a bright future. I think I’ll be in leadership of the Senate for a long time.
Q. Rob Mayer?
A. Rob, he was a better protem than people give him credit for, based on how he was elected but he did, he did okay. In the House, he was a chairman, did a great job. I think he chaired one of the public safety committees, but he was an advocate for the boot heel and rice and farmers, and he, I’d do anything for him. I think he’s doing a great job as a judge and I think that’s what he likes doing now.
Q. Eric Greitens?
A. Yeah, it’s just too bad having that much potential and you have a goal and get caught up in whatever he got caught up in, it’s just too bad, I mean.
Q. Let’s end up with a couple questions going forward. What’s left to do besides maybe get Todd to quit smoking?
A. Oh well help me, he’ll do that some day. There’s plenty to do. I mean we still got some higher education funding issues we gotta work through. The best thing, what’s left to do? I guess to exit on a positive note that we did the best we could, like Winston Churchill when he exited, I gave it blood, sweat and tears and I did the best I could so I’ll leave it with that.
Q. What’s more challenging be the speaker or the protem of the Senate?
A. Probably the speaker. You have a bigger number, you have more control because the budget starts there. And next to the governor, the speaker is the most powerful person in that building.
Q. Is the speaker more enjoyable?
A. It’s always enjoyable when you have the concentric power in your hand and you can move and not have to have a consensus, because you’re already elected by a consensus. You can do some things that’s, you can’t do in the Senate, because you have to work towards a negotiated set with that. Sometimes the House you just got to ram it through.
Q. How should the PQ be used going forward? What were your thoughts when you sit down to start using it?
A. Well is it necessary? Is all the other venues been tried? Is the opposition not giving deliberate debate on the issue, just trying to kill time? And is it of enough of importance to the majority that they think if you want to do it and does the majority realize there’s consequences after that.
Q. How do that, going forward, what are some things people with do to maintain the traditions of the Senate, that’s gonna safeguard the state for a long time?
A. Well, you know, it’s not too tough, all you have to do is walk in the hallways and look at all the people you stand on their shoulders are there for some reason and all the rules in the Senate and House are there for a reason and they’re built upon and we haven’t changed that many of them or modified very many of them. Just pay attention to what, how you got there, and read the rule book. That’s the power in the House and Senate is know the rules.
Q. What was your view of Trump when he was running, first started running?
A. Well who is this Yahoo, I said but I tell you what, he struck a cord, I mean in Missouri and he still is. He gets away with saying crazier things than I do, so.
Q. What’s your view of Trump today after seeing him as president for year and a half?
A. Well you never know what the guy is gonna do. I will say that the economy is in a tear but I wish the tariffs would have been handled just a little bit better and I hope there’s, knowing, being in leadership, you know that when you say something, you may be driving, again, some for theaters, some for negotiations, is there, you got to believe there’s something going on behind the walls. You hope it works out. I mean there’s no doubt in my mind that we have been treated unfairly on some of the trade deals, and but putting our manufacturers, our farmers at risk, I hope that doesn’t go much farther.
Q. So if there was a person starting in local government like you did, or going to come to that capitol for that first time in January, what piece of advice would you give them?
A. Walk the halls, understand that when you come in there it’s a hallowed room for debate and for negotiation, and if you think you’re gonna change the world, you’re not, because it takes 17 in the Senate, more with you, and 81 with you, and you better figure that out pretty quick because and figure out who your friends are, because if you don’t and you side on the wrong side, and make some silly decisions, or don’t show up to vote, it harms you forever.
Q. So the last question, this was suggested by a former governor, that thinks very highly of you. How would you summarize your career in just a couple sentences?
A. Very lucky.
Q. Senator Richard I want to thank you, it was an honor to get to talk to the people that I got to to prepare for this, an honor to be in your office and as Peter Kinder said, I love history but you’re historic figure in Missouri history and I’m very honored you sit down with us?
A. I’m glad you guys came down and it’s always a pleasure and I hope we had some fun and I’m not as bad as everybody seems. I try, but I’m pretty serious what I do when I’m in leadership. I understand that you gotta, you’re there for a reason and it’s not fun and games. I mean I’m not out chasing girls and I’m not drinking I haven’t had a drink since I was elected.
A. No. I take that back, maybe I had half a beer a month ago, at home. But no, because I don’t want to disrespect the institutions by me doing something stupid. I’m capable of saying something silly without that and some of it is warranted, some of it I shouldn’t have said, but no, I looked at what’s happened to a lot of people in the past and I’m not gonna go there and I want to model myself after a lot of people’s that’s been there and I hope I can be looked at in some light of, “He did a good job, did his best.”
Q. Senator, thank you so much for your time.
A. Scott, always a pleasure.
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 email@example.com, or via Twitter @TheRachDunn.