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Senate approves Graves’ appointment to UM Board despite bipartisan pushback


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After a bipartisan filibuster that spilled into the early morning hours, the Missouri Senate approved the appointment of Todd Graves to the University of Missouri (UM) System Board of Curators. 

The Senate considered the attorney and former head of the Missouri Republican Party for nearly eight hours beginning Tuesday evening, with Democrats and Republicans trading shifts holding the floor before the appointment was approved 19-13. 

It was clear toward the end of the night the filibuster was waning, however; a call for a quorum was unusually slow to establish just before 1 a.m.

GOP Sen. Paul Wieland — who serves on the Gubernatorial Appointments Committee and requested an additional week to consider the nomination — questioned alleged transactions between Graves and various campaigns, his time as a U.S. attorney, and lawsuits handled by his firm. Wieland said Graves had been pushed through without responding to all of the committee’s concerns. 

“Nominees should be respectful of the Senate and should answer our questions honestly and forthrightly; this nominee did not,” Wieland said. “I want to do what’s right, and apparently that’s not what we do here. … There’s a line that’s been crossed tonight, and there’s no going back from that line.”

Wieland joined fellow GOP members Mike Moon, Denny Hoskins, and Bill Eigel in voting no. Sen. Brian Williams was the sole Democratic vote in favor.

Sens. Justin Brown and Jeanie Riddle were absent for the vote.

Sen. Greg Razer, who held court through the initial debate last week, took the lead over the first couple of hours of debate. 

“The person the governor has put forward that is on the floor today is the former executive director of the Missouri Republican Party,” Razer said. “[MU President Dr. Mun] Choi has brought us a long way, and if this appointment goes through, whether his votes are political or not, a lot of people are going to view them from a political lens. One of the things Dr. Choi has been so successful at is taking the politics out and focusing on what the university does really well.”

Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer handled Todd Graves’ appointment before the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee. (SENATE COMMUNICATIONS)

Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, who handled Graves’ appointment before the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee last week, praised the confirmation vote. 

“I was proud to present Todd to the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee and I congratulate him on his confirmation,” Luetkemeyer said. “As a seventh-generation Missourian and a proud graduate of the University of Missouri, he will be a tremendous asset to the Board of Curators.”

The appointment was on the floor for more than two hours Thursday before being laid over. Razer and Wieland held court for much of last week’s debate, discussing the history of the MU System with members representing its campuses. Senators praised the system and its accomplishments, touting the contributions of Choi and football coach Eliah Drinkwitz. 

Graves’ appointment was approved in committee last week by a vote of 7-4 after a round of questioning. Graves would replace former legislator Phillip Snowden for the 6th congressional seat. 

Sources have told The Missouri Times as many as 20 senators on both sides of the aisle, including those on the committee, have concerns about losing fellow outgoing member David Steelman on the board. Steelman is a former member of the General Assembly who served as minority floor leader in the House. He has served as a curator since his appointment in 2014. 

Steelman’s appointed replacement, Cape Girardeau-based business owner Keith Holloway, has not made it to the floor for consideration. 

Gov. Mike Parson named the appointments last month. He told reporters Thursday he would leave the discussion to the Senate and “let the process happen.”