GOP consolidates hold over state legislature
By TIM ROWDEN
Jefferson City – Democrats took a drubbing in the mid-term elections Nov. 4, giving Republicans a super majority in both the state House and Senate, but Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, is reminding union members that Organized Labor has friends in the State Capitol on both sides of the aisle.
“I know that the numbers in both the Missouri House and Senate are overwhelming,” Louis said. “However, keep in mind that Labor still has friends on both sides of the isle in both chambers that we can work with.
“It is with that fact in mind that we go into the 2015/2016 legislative session ready to work hard to curb any attacks on Missouri's working families and union families.”
Republicans already controlled the state legislature going into the election. Now, they have a veto-proof majority.
Voters also handed Gov. Jay Nixon a ballot issue defeat, passing a constitutional amendment to give the legislature power to overturn the governor's budget withholding by a two-thirds vote. Just two months ago, citing budget concerns, Nixon blocked the release of funds for spending items he had vetoed but which the legislature voted to override in September.
When the 34-member state Senate reconvenes in 2015, it will have 25 Republican members – two more than needed to override the governor’s veto. In the 163-member House, the Republican majority added seven members for a total of 117, and gained one more when Rep. Linda Black (now R-Desloge) announced she was switching parties after winning re-election as a Democrat.
Jeff Aboussie, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council, said it was one of the worst Democratic losses Missouri has seen in a long time.
“There’s a lot of healing to do, and I think we have a lot of work to,” Aboussie said. “It’s a new day. We’ll take our loss and we’ll continue to work.”
FIGHTING FOR WORKING FAMILIES
Bipartisan support and lobbying by working Missourians helped stop right-to-work, attacks on prevailing wage and other anti-worker measures in the last session, Louis said.
Now, working families and union members need to redouble their efforts, he said, to ensure the success of worker-friendly candidates and legislation.
“In 2016, we need to work harder as the statewide races and federal races will be paramount for Labor,” he said.
STENGER WINS ST. LOUIS COUNTY
It wasn’t all bad news last week.
COPE-endorsed St. Louis County Councilman Steve Stenger edged out Republican Rick Stream in an unexpectedly tight race for St. Louis County executive.
Stenger, who vanquished incumbent Charlie Dooley in the August primary, grew up in a working class family. His father, a CWA lineman for 42 years, taught his son by example what it means to work hard work and to respect the work people do to support their families. His mother was a homemaker, wife and mother to the four Stenger kids. They grew up in a 1,000-square-foot home with a single bathroom.
Stenger said he grew up understanding the importance of the union in putting food on the table and a roof over their heads.
A lawyer, whose firm specializes in works compensation, civil and criminal litigation, Stenger has said in his first 100 days he plans to:
- Conduct “a complete forensic audit” of county government to determine where money is being spent wisely, and not so wisely;
- Create a special economic development team to identify emerging growth industries and work to bring them into the county;
- Install high-speed transmission fiber throughout the county as an immediate magnet for new industries to locate. “Put that in the ground and you’ll see businesses begin to sprout like daisies;”
- Launch a major infrastructure rebuilding effort that the county desperately needs.
- Use highly skilled union labor for county projects, because he knows it will be done right the first time, giving taxpayers real value for their investments.
FEW VICTORIES FOR DEMOCRATS
There were few victories for Democrats last week, but they were important:
- State Rep. Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) emerged victorious in a hard-fought contest for the 24th District Senate seat. (See related story on Page 1.)
- State Rep. Bill Otto (D-St. Charles) beat back a challenge from Republican Joe Corcia in the 70th District.
- Former Democratic Rep. Tracy McCreery, of Olivette, won a race for Schupp’s former seat over Republican Raymond Chandler, of Creve Coeur in the 88th District
- Democrat Deb Lavender defeated Republican Gina Jaksetic for Kirkwood-based 90th House district.
- Rep. Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis) defeated Republican Al Faulstich for a second time in the race for the 92nd District.
ST. LOUIS COUNTY
- Rep. Bob Burns, (D-Affton), handily defeated a challenge from Republican Garrett Mees in the 93rd District.
- Rep. Vicki Englund, (D-Green Park), lost to former Rep. Cloria Brown of Mehlville in the race for the 94th District. Englund has faced Brown in three previous election cycles – winning in 2008, losing in 2010, then winning the seat back again in 2012.
Jefferson County, once a Democratic stronghold in the St. Louis area, was particularly brutal to state House and Senate Democrats in this election.
In the contest for the 22nd District Senate seat formerly held by Sen. Ryan McKenna, Rep. Jeff Roorda (D-Barnhart) – business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association – lost a hotly contested and expensive race to Rep. Paul Wieland (R-Imperial).
Wieland broke from the party leadership, however, stressing his opposition to legislation hostile to labor unions — a decided departure from the state’s Republican leadership, which made the effort to pass right-to-work legislation their primary focus in the last session.
Republicans captured six out of seven seats in Jefferson County. Only Rep. Ben Harris (D-Hillsboro) survived.
Incumbent Democratic State Reps. Michael Frame (D-Eureka) and T.J. McKenna (D-Festus) both lost re-election, while Republicans Rob Vescovo of Arnold and Dan Shaul of Imperial captured the open seats that were vacated by Roorda and Wieland.
Frame was a particularly strong voice for working families in the last legislative session, and his support will be missed.