Politically Speaking: Former Treasurer Steelman reflects on Missouri's changing politics | St. Louis Public Radio

Politically Speaking: Former Treasurer Steelman reflects on Missouri's changing politics

Jul 18, 2016

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio's Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies are pleased to welcome former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman to the program. Steelman provided a candid assessment of Missouri statewide politics — and the legislative process in Jefferson City.

Steelman is a former state treasurer and state senator. She is the wife of former state Rep. David Steelman, a Rolla attorney, who is a member of the University of Missouri Board of Curators.

Running as a first-time candidate in 1998, Steelman defeated an incumbent Democratic state senator. She entered the Senate when Republicans were still in the minority, but eventually ended her career in the majority after the GOP won a number of seats in outstate Missouri.

In 2004, Steelman won a seven-way GOP primary for state treasurer. She later went on to defeat Arnold Mayor Mark Powell in the general election, becoming the first Republican to capture the state treasurer’s office since 1988. She made some waves during her tenure by clashing with fellow Republicans — including Gov. Matt Blunt and some outstate lawmakers.

After Blunt decided not to run for re-election in 2008, Steelman ran unsuccessfully for governor. She  upset some GOP officials who wanted the party to unit behind then-U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Columbia, who defeated Steelman in the primary, then went on to lose to Democrat Jay Nixon.

Four years later, in 2012, she lost a three-way GOP primary for the U.S. Senate that U.S. Rep. Todd Akin ultimately won.

While she’s not running for anything this election cycle, Steelman is assisting GOP gubernatorial hopeful Eric Greitens and Republican state treasurer candidate Eric Schmitt.

Here’s some of what Steelman had to say during the show:

  • Blunt announced his decision not to run for a second term on the same day Steelman launched a statewide tour promoting her re-election as treasurer. Blunt and Steelman did not have the best relationship when they both served. So when asked if she thought Blunt timed his announcement to overshadow Steelman’s, she replied: “I’ve always kind of felt like he did — or somebody on his campaign staff planned it,” she said. “I have no documentation of that all. It’s just my gut feeling.”
  • Steelman entered the Senate at a time when Democrats were still winning seats encompassing outstate Missouri. Now, that party is largely relegated to urban and suburban parts of the state. “I think it’s a couple of things: One is redistricting, which I think is at the root of a lot of problem in our country the way we do redistricting,” she said. “Also you have the extremes of both parties. And the extremes of the Democrats are ridiculous now.”
  • She said it’s “very challenging to run a statewide race,” particularly when the party isn't behind you. Recalling 2008, she said, “Kit Bond was against me, which really motivated a lot of money against me,” she said. “So it was challenging to raise money under those circumstances. You just have to get ideas straight to the people, which is what we did.”
  • Steelman has no plans to go to the Republican National Convention this week in Cleveland. She says she has a love-hate relationship with likely GOP presidential contender Donald Trump. “One day I like his style and his ‘take-no-prisoners, I’m going to shake things up’ kind of attitude. But then he says something ridiculously stupid — and then I don’t like him. Overall, I completely understand why he is where he is — because the people in this country are fed up with the system as we know it today.”
  • She’s not closing the door on running for office again, but she’s focused right now on helping Greitens in the four-way GOP primary for governor.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Sarah Steelman on Twitter: @sarah_steelman

Music: "Red Summer Sun" by Third Eye Blind