Senior Senate Democrats break with caucus

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Two senior Democrats unhappy with recent filibusters by their party on pro-gun and anti-abortion legislation will no longer participate in the Senate Democratic Caucus.

State Sens. Harold Caskey of Butler and Jim Mathewson of Sedalia each sent letters to the other 12 chamber Democrats saying they wouldn't attend caucus meetings for the remaining days of the legislative session, which ends Friday. Caskey also resigned his post as minority caucus chairman.

Mathewson, a 29-year veteran of the Missouri Legislature, said he was unhappy with the direction Senate Minority Floor Leader Ken Jacob was taking the caucus. Mathewson stressed that neither he nor Caskey had resigned from the caucus.

Both dissatisfied senators have moderate to conservative views reflective of their rural, western Missouri districts.

Unsuccessful attempts

Mathewson said their decisions were prompted by caucus actions to bitterly, though ultimately unsuccessfully, filibuster bills allowing law-abiding citizens to obtain concealed weapons permits and imposing a 24-hour waiting period on women seeking an abortion.

"I'm not going to take the caucus' time or my time to expound -- again -- on why it is killing me with those positions," Mathewson said. "I can't continue to try to defend those positions when they're not my positions or the positions of the people I serve."

Mathewson, who served eight years as Senate president pro tem, longer than anyone in Missouri history, said he may resume active participation in the caucus next year, but he may not.

Caskey deferred comment on the subject until after the legislature adjourns for the year on Friday. A former majority floor leader, he is in his 27th year in the Senate.

Caskey angered some chamber Democrats two weeks ago by invoking a rarely used Senate rule to halt the concealed weapons filibuster. By Senate tradition, filibusters are almost always allowed to run their course and not brought to a forced end.

Jacob, of Columbia, is champion of the Democratic Party's liberal wing. He had little to say on the matter.

"These guys have been friends of mine for 21 years," Jacob said. "Sometimes they love me; sometimes they hate me. I'm sure we'll have some fights in the future and other times we'll work together."

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