On the Trail | St. Louis Public Radio

On the Trail

Governor Eric Greitens speaks to reporters outside the Civil Courts Building in downtown St. Louis after his felony invasion of privacy charge was dropped. May 14, 2018
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In a saga that’s featured twists, turns, drama and intrigue, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s decision to drop a felony invasion of privacy charge was genuinely surprising.

An email sent to St. Louis Public Radio about a now-scuttled soccer stadium prompted Attorney General Josh Hawley to once again look into Gov. Eric Greitens’ social media policies. Jan. 2017
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s not every day that a sentence in a 14-month-old article is the catalyst behind an attorney general inquiry into a sitting governor.

But that’s exactly what’s happened in April, when an email sent to St. Louis Public Radio about a now-scuttled soccer stadium prompted Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley to look again into Gov. Eric Greitens’ social media policies.

Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio I File photo

Members of the Missouri House delivered a big blow to Gov. Eric Greitens this month when they released a startling report on the GOP chief executive’s conduct. The details prompted some on both sides of the aisle to call on Greitens to resign, a demand the governor resisted.

Then came the following week, which featured a full collapse of Greitens’ political support and darkening cloud of legal developments.

State Rep. Courtney Curtis, left, and St. Louis County Councilwoman Hazel Erby speak a news conference last year. Curtis is sponsoring "right to work" legislation aimed at construction unions, which he contends haven't done enough to bring minori
File photo | Rebecca Smith | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 1:45 p.m. on Monday with formal filing of lawsuit.

After filing closed on Tuesday, Missouri Democrats were jubilant about attracting scores of candidates to run for House and Senate seats.

But some are fuming over one person who didn’t get a chance to file.

Sen. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, opined on the idea of iron-clad pledges during an interview on his "right to work" vote. While he says he refrains from absolutes, Wieland doesn't envision any scenario where he'd vote for right to work -- which bars arrange
File photo I Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Control of the United States Senate could depend on how well Democrats like Bob Butler fare in Jefferson County.

That might sound like hyperbole, but it’s not too far from the truth. Butler, an attorney who unsuccessfully ran for the House in 2014 and 2016, is one of two Democrats seeking to oust state Sen. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial.

Democrats like U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and state auditor Nicole Galloway need strong performances in Jefferson County to win their elections — and will depend on people like Butler to bring Democratic voters to the polls.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley kicks off his U.S. Senate bid in St. Louis County on March 13, 2018.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Popularity of a president often looms large during midterm elections, as it often plays a bigger role in voter decision-making than seemingly endless television ads or the back-and-forth between candidates.

Attorney General Josh Hawley is clearly banking that President Donald Trump will be popular enough this fall to assist his Senate bid against U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. He made that contention during a Tuesday night campaign stop in west St. Louis County.

Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Webber was the keynote speaker at the 2018 Democrat Days in Hannibal.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

After stepping to the lectern for his keynote address Saturday night, Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Webber recounted his pitch from last year’s Democrat Days in Hannibal. After his party’s disastrous 2016 election cycle, Webber told his fellow Democrats that they had a “moral obligation” to oppose President Donald Trump.

This year, Webber placed an amendment on that comment. He told the packed banquet hall that Democrats “have a moral obligation to stand up and oppose what Gov. Eric Greitens is doing here in Missouri.”

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger confers with Councilman Pat Dolan at a Dec. 19, 2017, meeting of the St. Louis County Council.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s recently-enacted donation limits don’t affect county and municipal candidates, which means contenders for, say, the St. Louis County Council or county executive’s office can take contributions of unlimited size.

That could change, if some members of the council get their way.

House Republicans talk during the last day of the legislative session. May 17, 2017
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Democrats across the country are jubilant after the party took a Jefferson County-based House seat that was held for nearly eight years by a Republican.

It’s a morale boost for a state party that’s seen its legislative fortunes evaporate over the past few election cycles. And it’s a win in a county where state Democratic candidates have won before and need to excel in order to win tough elections later this year.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens helped engineer a freeze on low-income housing tax credits. And that decision is likely to stand unless the legislature makes substantial changes to the program.
File photo I Carolina Hidaglo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens upset a bipartisan contingent of legislators when his interim appointees made major public policy decisions.

That includes how the Republican governor and his appointees in December 2017 helped halt state low-income housing tax credits, an incentive that encourages developers to produce affordable housing for the working poor and elderly.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s voter-approved contribution limits curbed the amount of money that some candidates could take from a political donor. What it didn’t do is stop a candidate from encouraging big contributors to send money to political action committees that could help their electoral pursuits.

Colorful photos hang on the walls at HCI Alternatives in Collinsville. The marijuana dispensary is set up like a typical doctor's office.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

State Rep. Jim Neely, one of a handful of doctors in the Missouri General Assembly, believes medical marijuana would help people with terminal illnesses.

That includes his daughter, who died of cancer several years ago.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens speaks to reporters after the 2017 adjourned. Greitens didn't have the smoothest relationship with legislators, including Republicans that control both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Eric Greitens used his personal backstory and resume, not alliances with elected officials, to carry him to the Missouri governorship. The Republican made castigating “career politicians” a standard part of his rhetorical pitch — even after the 2016 election season ended.

But as details emerge from a sex scandal that tarnished his image and put his political career in jeopardy, the elected officials Greitens derided aren’t coming to his rescue. Some are twisting the knife.

Former Gov. Jay Nixon stands next to his official portrait last week in Jefferson City. (January 2018)
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

When lawmakers gaveled themselves back into session on Jan. 3, most people focused on tension between Gov. Eric Greitens and the Missouri Senate — or how the GOP-controlled legislature may struggle to solve big policy problems over the next few months.

But for a brief moment on Thursday, legislators from both parties took a break from the Jefferson City rigor to shower praise on former Gov. Jay Nixon.

Jumira Moore, 8, watches as her mother, Timira Saunders, fills out a ballot at Central Baptist Church in St. Louis on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s indisputable that 2017 produced enough policy and political storylines to keep bespectacled reporters busy. But an even-numbered year brings elections — and the potential for a whole different texture to the state’s politics.

Eric and Sheena Greitens hold their sons, Joshua and Jacob, while speaking to reporters after casting their ballots the St. Louis Public Library in the Central West End on Tuesday.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 5 p.m. Friday with more data from state agencies: At least 580 Missouri state government employees have taken advantage of paid family leave since Gov. Eric Greitens’ executive order in March.

While some state lawmakers are glad the benefit is available, they worry about what it’s costing the state.

Donald Trump leaves the stage after a March 2016 speech at the Peabody Opera House.
File photo I Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Missouri residents backed President Donald Trump by overwhelming numbers in last year’s election.

But some of his backers told St. Louis Public Radio that they aren’t completely happy with how he’s reacted to last weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where one person was killed and more than a dozen people were injured when a car rammed through a crowd of anti-white supremacist protesters, and two state troopers died when their helicopter crashed.

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri lawmakers routinely have denied requests to make their emails available through open records requests. Now, a conservative nonprofit group is challenging the policy with a lawsuit that, should it succeed, will give the public more insight into how legislators make decisions.

Bob McCulloch is sworn in for another term as St. Louis County Prosecutor in 2015.
File photo | Bill Greenblatt | UPI

The St. Louis County Council gave Prosecutor Bob McCulloch — with unanimous consent — a retirement-pension boost last year. That same council might take it away.

The council will begin hearings Tuesday on a bill to do just that, with several council members contending that County Executive Steve Stenger mislead them last year. He denied that charge and said his adversaries on the council knew exactly what they voted on, deepening the rift that’s been exposed in recent months.

Will Ross, the associate dean for diversity at Washington University, is part of a three-person panel tasked with coming up with a plan that could overhaul St. Louis' government.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Will Ross may play a substantial role in ending the more than 140-year separation between St. Louis and St. Louis County.

The Memphis, Tennessee, native is the associate dean for diversity at Washington University and a member of a three-person panel that’s been given a year to put forward a plan to reshape St. Louis’ government. It’s part of an effort from a group called Better Together, which has released a number of studies criticizing the city-county separation.

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