JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – As the day draws nearer for the election of the next Majority Floor Leader, the Missouri Times reached out to the three candidates seeking that seat to ask them a few questions about why they’re running. Here are Rep. Rob Vescovo’s answers:
Missouri Times: If elected as the next majority floor leader, what qualities do you think you will bring to the table that will help you do the job effectively? What’s one strength that sets you apart from the other candidates?
Vescovo: I was adopted as a child, so I look at the concept of family and precious value of family a little differently than most do. Since I’ve been elected, I’ve come to see our House Majority Caucus as a family…thankfully, a big family. We have different backgrounds, different passions, different temperaments, talents and convictions and sometimes we have big disagreements. But we truly are a family and we can put our differences aside and come together to create meaningful, conservative change for the people of our state. One leader or one small group of members alone can’t get it done. But when we stand together, we can do so much. Open doors and open lines of communication go a long way toward having a caucus that functions smoothly.
I hope what can set me apart is that I come from a truly working-class district and have seen firsthand what the state of Missouri can do that helps people or, unfortunately, hurts people struggling to remain in the middle class. I believe I can bring a common-sense perspective to our leadership table that strengthens our caucus and strengthens our state.
Missouri Times: If we’re asking about strengths, it only makes sense to ask about weaknesses. What would you describe as the one thing you wish you change during your time in the House, and why
Vescovo: I don’t have a lot of patience for petty political games and obstruction that blocks the things we were sent to Jefferson City to do from getting done. We were elected to do a job… the voters have spoken loud and clear in the past several elections…and that job is to bring conservative change to our state. The one thing I would change would be to make our legislative process more responsive to the constituents who elected us.
Missouri Times: This past session, tort reform, and labor took a major role in shaping the direction of legislation. What topics do you see as the next big issues for Missouri, and how do you think you can help advance them in the House? What will be the top priorities in 2018?
Vescovo: I think the biggest issues will be balancing our budget, reforming our broken Medicaid system, and bringing meaningful tax reform to our state that will usher in true growth and job creation. I intend to do everything I can to bring together the broad spectrum of backgrounds and perspectives in our large caucus to forge consensus on reforms that are fair to taxpayers and that create the jobs we so badly need.
Missouri Times: What do you think will be the most difficult part of the job of serving as the majority floor leader?
Vescovo: The toughest part would be allocating the most limited resource the legislature has – time – with the almost unlimited spectrum of debate-worthy ideas and proposals that many of the 163 House members bring to the table every year.
Missouri Times: Ethics reform has continued to be a hot topic for the legislature, do you think it will appear again? Is there a middle ground that might be found to bring meaningful reform to Missouri, or is this issue doomed to continue stalling in the General Assembly? Do you believe enough has been done?
Vescovo: Year after year, the House has passed a large package of meaningful ethics reforms only to see most of them die in the Senate. I don’t think the House is the obstacle to seeing stronger ethics reforms become law. But if the Senate ever does become willing to debate and negotiate on key ethics reforms, it will find the House to be a most eager partner.
Missouri Times: How does the House majority continue building on their success and maintain their numbers in the next election cycles?
Vescovo: A strong, well-supported campaign operation has been the key to our success in the past and will continue to be in the future. I come from a swing district that had been held by Democrats for 5 or 6 decades, but I’ve been able to win it by 20-point margins in both of my elections with hard work, crucial funding, and a team behind me. If those three principles continue to guide our campaign efforts going forward, House Republicans will maintain and hopefully grow our supermajority.
Missouri Times: What made you decide to get into politics in the first place, and what has been the hardest lesson to learn since entering the House? How has this role of serving as a state representative changed you?
Vescovo: Like many, I was disgusted with the runaway radically liberal agenda of Washington, D.C. I didn’t want to see that wrongheaded agenda come to Jefferson City and our state. I felt I owed it to my children and my family to do everything I could to see that Missouri didn’t go the way of D.C. so that our state can fulfill its potential and remain a great place to live and work. We still have plenty of work to do.
My eyes have opened to a broad array of ideas and issues that I didn’t fully understand before I was elected. There is almost never an issue that comes up where my thinking hasn’t been shaped by something my colleagues have shared with me.
Missouri Times: What’s one piece of advice you would offer to a freshman legislator or someone considering running for the House?
Vescovo: My advice would be to build relationships with as many fellow members as you can…especially those from different regions or a different background, and most especially those you may disagree with from time to time. As a legislator, the key to building strong consensus is understanding the opposing point of view. Never compromise your core principles, but learn to disagree with others, when you must, in a courteous way.
Missouri Times: What do you consider to be your biggest personal victory as a legislator and why?
Vescovo: Year after year, I work on issues that will affect our communities back in our districts. I have worked on the abuse of paid administrative leave, labor reform, tax reform and many others, but this year would have been the largest victory thus far in dealing with the way our General Obligation Bonds are sold. Now they will be sold competitively and that is a huge win for our constituents. This wasn’t a sexy idea or a sexy issue to work on in the Capitol, but with hard work and determination, I got it done with my colleagues. This wasn’t a victory just for me but a victory for our entire caucus. This legislation will undoubtedly save our constituents billions of dollars and they’ll never know that we made that change this year.
Missouri Times: If you could have a one-on-one conversation with your voters, what’s the one thing you want them to know about you?
Vescovo: I would tell them that every day I fight as hard as I can to create an economic climate in our state that brings solid, stable, family-supporting jobs to our area so that hard-working people can keep more of what they earn and so that our young people don’t have to leave our state to find good jobs.
We also asked the representatives to take part in a “rapid fire” round of questioning, where we ask questions that are a little bit more fun in nature.
Favorite food: Ham, green beans, and potato soup
Favorite TV show: Survivor
Favorite holiday: Thanksgiving, Christmas, any holiday I can spend with my family
Least favorite household chore: Emptying the dishwasher
How do you like to relax? Working in the yard
Which is easier: whipping votes or wrangling kids? Wrangling the kids
If you could time and space travel, where would you go? To Jr. High and High School to work harder than I did the first time.
If you won the Missouri Lottery, what would you do with it? Charity, family, and friends. I would also use it to make sure my children have ample college funds.
Favorite color: Orange
Pepsi or Coke: Diet Coke
Favorite automobile brand: Chevrolet
Favorite sports team: St. Louis Cardinals
Favorite movie: Braveheart / The Patriot/ Shawshank Redemption
Favorite book: The Bible
Dog or cat: I have both
Favorite ice cream flavor: Pralines & Cream/ Pecan
Benjamin Peters was a reporter for The Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine and also produced the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined The Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield.