New leadership - GOP strength, term limits bring new faces

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

When Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (as of Monday when he was officially sworn in by Missouri Supreme Court Judge Stephen Limbaugh) spoke to the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce's First Friday overflow crowd last week, he displayed one of his strengths: the ability to communicate information that is clear and understandable in a logical and timely manner.

Kinder historically reviewed the bipartisan achievements that were accomplished during the 12 years of his service as this district's state senator.

In response to a question, he outlined his many constitutional and statutorial duties as lieutenant governor and listed the many issues this year's state government is facing. All of this was done in a 25-minute time span basically without notes.

We've previously covered most of the issues, but it is Kinder's willingness to listen, organize the information and communicate that helped him win the large majority of newspaper endorsements during this year's election.

There is no shortage of pre-session advice and assumptions for this year's Missouri General Assembly session, the first in 84 years that has the historically minority Republican Party with comfortable majorities in the House and Senate while also having a Republican governor.

Chris Koster, the newly elected Republican state senator from the rural 31st District and who replaces Harold Caskey, penned an article that has been reprinted many places, including the Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post Dispatch and which I reprint here:

Ten years ago, the voters of Missouri embraced term limits for members of the Missouri Legislature.

And on Wednesday, as the 2005 General Assembly is sworn in, the full effect of term limits will be complete in our state.

No member of the 1994 Missouri Senate will remain in the Senate. No member of the 1994 Missouri House will remain in the House. Most notably, the last of the great legislative lions will depart government's stage.

Sen. John Russell, a Republican from Lebanon, served 14 years in the house and 28 years in the Senate. Sen. Wayne Goode, a St. Louis Democrat, served 22 years in the House and 20 years in the Senate. Sen. Jim Mathewson, a Democrat from Sedalia, served six years in the House and 24 years in the Senate. And Sen. Harold Caskey, a Democrat from Butler, served 28 years in the Senate.

Each of these lawmakers -- the last of the lions of the Senate -- is returning home.

From his position as chairman of Senate Appropriations, Russell steered our state through one of the most difficult financial challenges since the Great Depression. His career began in dark days of partisanship in which 50 Republican state representatives were shoved into a single office suite.

Throughout his tenure, Russell rose time and again to protect our state's children, our businesses and our workers.

Since the 1960s, Goode has worked steadily to formulate responsible policy on issues ranging from environmental protection and utility regulation to fair funding for our public schools. Goode never sought the limelight, instead directing his talents to solving complex public policy challenges.

His depth of expertise on technical issues of government is renowned.

Mathewson is the only senator in Missouri history to be elected president pro tem for four consecutive terms. Throughout his career, he raised the principles of welfare-to-work, the support for citizens with disabilities, and the funding of our educational community.

He possessed the gift for bringing divergent, even warring, factions together to resolve their differences in meaningful and productive ways.

But no one has ever fought harder for his constituents than Harold Caskey. Few, if any, have rivaled his remarkable legislative accomplishments on the Senate floor. During his nearly three decades in the Senate, Caskey passed more than 320 pieces of legislation. He distinguished himself as a fierce and determined protector of his constituents, as well as one of the most brilliant minds in the legislature.

Term limits have brought welcome change to our state's legislature, and new life is now pumped into our capitol every two years. However, term limits have also subtracted a great wealth of expertise.

In the 2005 General Assembly, no members of the Missouri Senate will have more than four years of experience in their current positions.

Regardless of one's position on term limits, the contributions of Senators Russell, Goode, Mathewson and Caskey have been remarkable. I join the many who recognize their contribution and the great love they share for Missouri.

I would like to add that these former state senators (three Democrats and one Republican) were not partisian idealogues but were willing to address issues on their merits and work with other legislators and the governor (Republican or Democrat) to resolve them.

Two of the Democrat legislators were from outstate (some say rural) Missouri, and the seats they held have been filled by recently elected Republicans. Senator Russell's Republican seat was replaced by a Republican. Frankly, there are few politicians who will replace the independence, honesty, intelligence and capabilities of these four gentlemen.

Today the only Democratic senators in Missouri are from the urban areas of Kansas City and St. Louis and one from outstate Missouri (Columbia).

Do we say out of step?

Gary Rust is the chairman of Rust Communications.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: