Updated 10:27 a.m., Sept. 22 with a quote from GOP Chair John Hancock
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – After the right-to-work bill failed to make it out of veto session last week thanks in large part to 21 “no” votes from House Republicans, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder wrote an editorial accusing Republicans who opposed right-to-work legislation of celebrating with labor leaders just after the bill’s failure to make it out of veto session.
Kinder wrote the GOP representatives in opposition to right-to-work were “joyously yukking it up and high-fiving the delirious (and shrinking) crowd from Big Labor.”
“Kinder lashing out in his op-ed was petulant and unbecoming of a Lt. Governor,” she wrote. “Instead of acting like a true leader and bringing our party together, he took great pains to assail, malign and vilify those who dared to have an opinion that was different from his own. The column was purposefully written to discredit and destroy careers…
“Presently, there is a lot of spinning occurring to clarify his statement so they conform to provable evidence. If a person will lie about the little things, can we trust them with the big ones? We will need a united party as we face tough statewide elections in 2016. Peter Kinder has not only failed to be an example for Republicans, he has also fostered an environment for future bullying and a lack of diversity in our party. Shame on him.”
Other House Republicans who voted “no” on HB116 have joined her call. Rep. Ron Hicks, R-St. Peters, said Kinder’s editorial has alienated some on the Right from the rest of the party.
“I know Kinder supporters that are no longer supporters because of this,” he said. “The head of the Republican party is attacking the Republicans. He’s going to need our help in the future here… I think he’s forgetting the big picture. Maybe he doesn’t need us. It saddened me.
“We should not be bullied to vote [certain ways] when for years they tell us to vote our conscience and our constituents.”
Others defended Kinder’s words. Former Speaker of the House Tim Jones said he agreed with everything Kinder wrote.
“These 20 legislators, they’re on the wrong side of history,” he said. “They’re either convinced that their own political future depends on it or they are too reliant on the money the big labor bosses funnel their way.”
Jones also alluded that because so many right-wing groups supported the right-to-work measure, more conservative candidates than those who voted no may benefit the party more next term.
“This was the most united effort among all those groups,” he said. “The fact that there’s a few Republicans standing in the way of this, I think there’s going to be a tidal wave of conservatism against them.”
While the infighting is certainly heated, others want to hold their heads above water and wait for the rhetoric to subside since it could damage the party and the people who make those statements
“I just think that volleying back and forth does nothing but fan the flames,” Rep. Kathie Conway, R-St. Charles, told The Missouri Times. Conway was one of the Republicans to vote “no” on right-to-work. “I’m just kind of chilling out, letting things unfold, and working hard to represent the people of my district.”
Hicks thinks that damage is already done, however. When asked about some of the anti-bullying initiative that arose around the Capitol after Auditor Tom Schweich’s suicide, Hicks mentioned that the editorial was evidence that the attitude still lingered around Jefferson City.
“How fast we forget,” Hicks said. “It hasn’t even been a year, and people have already forgotten what the bullying and the lies did to a man’s life and his family. This party needs to pull itself together and learn to disagree with each other so we can be a strong party.”
John Hancock, the chair of the Republican Party in Missouri, believes the party remains united.
“We are a majority party in this state, and we’ve got a lot of diversity amongst our elected officials, even amongst our state committee,” he said. “In the big scheme of things, I would prefer to see our party growing and adding more people with more points of view that we identify and elect more conservatives to office.
“I expect our party to be completely unified as we move into the 2016 elections.”