By TIM ROWDEN
Twenty Republican legislators who stood with Missouri working families in sustaining Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of right-to-work legislation are being attacked across the state by a committee funded by the anti-union Humphreys Family. The so-called Committee for Accountable Government in Missouri has begun airing a series of vicious attack ads in a campaign to “hold the group responsible” for their votes against right-to-work.
“Attacking our own,” is how Representative Shane Roden (R-Cedar Hill), one of the targeted legislators, described the ads. “It's one of the biggest problems we have. I think it’s a problem with politics in general. If you don’t agree with me then you’re an enemy, instead of trying to work with one another and improve Missouri, bring businesses to Missouri, improve workers’ rights and make it easier for Missouri to grow. There’s things that we could be doing to accomplish that, instead of focusing on special interest groups.”
The committee has raised more than $1 million for the campaign with only two donations – each for $500,000 – from David Humphreys, CEO of Joplin, MO, roofing product company Tamko Building Products Inc., and his sister Sarah Humphreys Atkins. The campaign includes television, radio, digital and outdoor advertising in each of the legislators’ districts.
Last session’s right-to-work bill fell short of the 109 votes needed to override Gov. Nixon’s veto. The committee’s statement said the 20 “sided” “against their more than 90 Republican colleagues.”
BULLIED FOR REPRESENTING
“Bullying” is how representative Becky Ruth (R-Festus) described the campaign.
“I’m proud to represent my constituents, and I'm going to continue to do so in the future,” Ruth said. “No outside special interests have ever, or will ever, bully me into turning my back on my constituents.”
Rep. Elaine Gannon (R-De Soto) said she stands by her vote.
“I represented my district,” she said. “I got maybe a handful of phone calls to support right-to-work, and I got hit hard with people asking me not to support right-to-work. Jefferson County is a union county, and my district is a union district. That’s why I was sent to Jefferson City, and it’s why I voted the way I voted. If you look at my voting record, I’ve supported unions all three years.”
Kevin Engler (R-Farmington) said this is the first time that he’s seen negative ads during the Christmas season.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Engler said. “David Humphreys can come after us for voting against right-to-work. He’s got the money, and he can do this. But I’ve never seen an attack ad on Christmas. It hasn’t really affected me much. I haven’t lost any sleep. It’s just kind of sad at Christmastime.”
A former Missouri senator, Engler is up for his last term in the House next year. He said he hadn’t decided whether he would seek re-election.
Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, challenged the gall of Humphreys in trying to dictate what is right for voters in the rest of the state.
“I find it unbelievable that a businessman from Joplin, Mo, would know who’s better to represent the constituents in St. Charles or Jefferson County than the constituents themselves,” Louis told the Labor Tribune. “Who the hell does he think he is to think that he knows that?”
Louis said working families should know these legislators are friends of working families and deserve their support on Election Day. For some, that may mean pulling a Republican ticket – perhaps for the first time – in the Primary Election to help them win.
The advertising campaign comes as no surprise to St. Louis Labor Council President Pat White.
“We had heard this was coming down the pike,” he said. “It’s funny how in the ad they talk about taking special interest money up in Jeff City when, if you do a little homework on these PACs, they come from big money in Missouri. The Humphrey’s dumped some money into this and even American’s for Prosperity, which is the Koch Brothers, has been involved here in Missouri.
“Heaven forbid these reps, who are in heavy Labor districts vote what their districts want and not what special interests want. They talk about these reps taking a few thousand dollars form labor unions, but these reps raise tens of thousands of dollars to get elected, and a very small percentage comes from labor unions,” White said
“These reps have said they’re voting their districts and they have the data to back it up – letters and phone calls, and everyone of them saying right-to-work is wrong. They’re voting what their districts want them to vote,” White said. “I don't know about you, but I think that’s what we want from all of our politicians.”
The targeted legislators who voted “NO” on right-to-work and “NO” to override Gov. Nixon’s veto of the legislation are:
- Linda Black (R-Park Hills)
- Kathie Conway (R-St. Charles)
- Kevin Corlew (R-Kansas City)
- Kevin Engler (R-Farmington)
- Sue Entlicher (R-Boliver)
- Paul Fitzwater (R-Potosi)
- Elaine Gannon (R-De Soto)
- Ron Hicks (R-St. Peters)
- Galen Higdon (R-St. Joseph)
- Dave Hinson (R-St. Clair)
- Bill E. Kidd (R-Jackson)
- Nick King (R-Liberty)
- Bart Korman (R-High Hill)
- Jeanie Lauer (R-Blue Springs)
- John McCaherty (R-High Ridge)
- Shane Roden (R-Cedar Hill)
- Becky Ruth (R-Festus)
- Sheila Solon (R-Blue Springs)
- Chrissy Sommer (R-St. Charles)
- Anne Zerr (R-St. Charles)
Rep. Ron Hicks (R-St. Peters) announced he will not run for a third term in the Missouri House of Representatives, instead seeking office at home, running for mayor of St. Peters. “It’s time for me to come home,” said Hicks, who has spent four years in Jefferson City.
St. Peters’ current mayor is Len Pagano, an opponent of right-to-work, who has said he will be running for a third four-year term.