On the Trail | St. Louis Public Radio

On the Trail

State Rep. Justin Alferman speaks at the microphone during Wednesday's veto session. Lawmakers overrode Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of Alferman's photo idenitifcation bill.
Provided | Tim Bommel I House Communications

If you judge a successful veto session by how many bills are overturned, then Wednesday’s gathering was like a college football blowout.

That’s because the GOP majority was able to outflank Gov. Jay Nixon and his Democratic compatriots in the legislature on more than a dozen measures, including a bill that would implement a photo identification requirement to vote should a proposed constitutional amendment pass and another that makes it easier to conceal and carry a weapon. Unlike previous years, there was little drama – or much apprehension about squelching Democratic filibusters.

State representatives get ready to wrap up the legislative session.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Welcome, one and all, to the fifth anniversary of this reporter’s “five things to look for veto session” stories. Plenty of things happened since the first iteration of this listicle hit the World Wide Web: Donald Trump became a serious presidential contender, Macklemore curiously won a bunch of Grammys, and “five things to look for” stories gradually aroused the ire of cranky tricenarians living in St. Charles County. 

File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

It didn't take a particularly long time before the legal showdown between Bruce Franks and Penny Hubbard became a rationale for a photo identification requirement. The disputed 78th District House race became part of the discourse to override a gubernatorial veto of photo ID legislation -- especially after the publication of a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article detailing potential absentee ballot irregularities.

Bruce Franks talks to Mary Wheeler-Jones, the Democratic director of elections for St. Louis, on August 17, 2016.
File photo by Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

The prolonged 78th House District primary between state Rep. Penny Hubbard and Bruce Franks may prove that one state representative race can shake up the Missouri political system.

But there’s disagreement if that "system shaking" is a positive or negative development for Missouri politics.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, center, with Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, right, at area high school during height of unrest in Ferguson.
Missouri Attorney General's Office | File photo

If you’ve paying attention to the discourse in the race for Missouri governor, you’ve probably heard a lot about what Democratic gubernatorial nominee Chris Koster didn’t do during the unrest in Ferguson in 2014.

In fact, several Republican gubernatorial hopefuls accused Koster of being “absent” during the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death. It's the type of message that serves a dual purpose of questioning Koster's commitment to law enforcement and leadership skills. (Republican gubernatorial nominee Eric Greitens told a swarm of reporters after he won the GOP primary that Koster “failed to show up and to lead in Ferguson.”)

It will be up to Missouri voters to decide whether Koster's actions in Ferguson two years ago were effective. But it’s inaccurate to say that Koster was “absent."

Eric Greitens, left, and Chris Koster
Carolina Hidalgo and Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s been less than two weeks since Missouri voters chose nominees for governor. And it’s fair to say that neither candidate wasted much time in fashioning their general election message — or sharply questioning their opponent’s worthiness.

This reporter spent the past few days watching and listening to Chris Koster and Eric Greitens' post-primary speeches. And from what the two men are saying on the stump, Missourians are in for a very contentious campaign — and discourse that may appear familiar.

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Chris Koster talks with supporters on Saturday in St. Louis. Koster says he's opposed to school vouchers, but is amenable to charter schools.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Even before he became governor, Jay Nixon drew a hard line in the sand: If the Missouri General Assembly passed any bill that Nixon felt transferred public dollars to private schools, he would veto that legislation. He followed through on that promise in 2014, when the General Assembly approved changes to Missouri’s school transfer law that, among other things, allowed children in unaccredited school districts to go to certain nonsectarian, private schools.

Whether that “line” remains, however, depends on who replaces Nixon in the governor’s office.

Now that the 2016 primaries are in the books, most people are looking ahead to what could be an expensive and contentious general election cycle.

But before Tuesday becomes part of Missouri political history, perhaps it’s worth answering the 10 questions posed before voters went to the polls. After all, it wouldn’t be very useful to throw out errant questions without answering them.

John Brunner tilts his head back as Eric Greitens speaks at St. Louis Public Radio's GOP gubernatorial candidate debate.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

SOMEWHERE IN AMERICA – You could say that Missouri’s 2016 primary cycle was a bit unwieldy.

This election has everything: An unpredictable and incredibly expensive governor’s race, statewide contests that turned thermonuclear nasty, and high-stakes legislative contests. For St. Louis voters, there’s a critical four-way race for circuit attorney and even a scramble for sheriff.

Balloons drop on the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

PHILADELPHIA – There’s a decent chance Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign could greatly impact Martin Rucker II’s professional career.

The former Mizzou football star is running as a Democrat for state representative in the Kansas City area. Since he’s running in a district that’s not exactly a sure thing for Democrats, Rucker will probably need strong showing from people higher up the ballot to help him out.

House Minority Leader Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis, leads the Democratic end-of-session press conference as state Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis, looks on.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio |file photo

Updated July 23 with the nominee — Democratic committee members in St. Louis and St. Louis County have nominated House Minority Leader Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis, as their party’s candidate to replace former state Sen. Joe Keaveny.

Keaveny resigned as the state senator for Missouri’s 4th District after the 2016 legislative session to become an administrative law judge.

Bruce Franks and state Rep. Penny Hubbard
Courtesy of Bruce Franks' campaign and House Communications

It’s almost like clockwork: Whenever a member of the Hubbard family is on the ballot in the St. Louis area, their political adversaries exude confidence about beating them at the ballot box. These opponents usually point disparagingly to the family’s political alliances and voting patterns — and contend that they’d act in a more progressive fashion.

With one notable exception, all of these challengers failed to win — and have largely faded from the political scene. And as a result, the Hubbard family won races for state representative, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen and the St. Louis Democratic Central Committee. The subtext of it all? Beating a Hubbard is really, really hard.

Catherine Hanaway looks on as Eric Greitens speaks at St. Louis Public Radio's GOP gubernatorial candidate debate.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

If Missourians tuned into their NPR affiliated station Wednesday night expecting an easy-going session from Lake Wobegon, they were in for a big surprise.

That’s because the debate between Missouri’s four GOP hopefuls for governor was a, dare I say, lively event. It came as Catherine Hanaway, Eric Greitens, John Brunner and Peter Kinder head into the final stretch of the high-stakes and expensive campaign.

Cornel West, center, is part of a 15-person platform drafting committee that met last week in St. Louis.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

When Democrats gather in Philadelphia next month, the focus will probably be on whom delegates select to be the party’s presidential nominee. But that’s not the only piece of official business.

Democrats will also ratify a platform, which is effectively a statement of principles for the party. While the document isn’t binding, it could provide a glimpse of what’s to come if Hillary Clinton becomes the next president. And it could provide a voice for the millions of people who supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

A supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is seated for the Missouri Democratic Party convention in Sedalia.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

You could say that Ken Jacob was for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid before it was cool.

The former Democratic state senator from Columbia backed Clinton when she ran against then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama in 2008. Eight years after narrowly falling short both in Missouri and nationally that year, Clinton is poised to become the Democratic presidential nominee when the party meets for its national convention. And after being selected a Clinton delegate at congressional caucuses, Jacob will get to witness Clinton getting the nomination later this summer in Philadelphia.

Gov. Jay Nixon made expanding Medicaid a top priority when he first ran for governor. While he made some small steps, he was largely unsuccessful in achieving that goal.
File photo by Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

After Gov. Jay Nixon placed his signature on legislation that could expand Medicaid for Missourians who are disabled or elderly, I couldn’t help but think back to when the Democratic official visited Bob Pund’s apartment.

Nixon was a mere attorney general when he ventured into Pund’s residence back in 2007. Pund is paralyzed from the shoulders down and had been critical of major cuts made to Medicaid in 2005. As Nixon sat in Pund’s living room, the aspiring governor vowed to make reversing those reductions a priority of his eventual administration – even if he was faced with a Republican-controlled legislature.

Alderman Scott Ogilvie, D-24th, leveled harsh criticism on the stadium proposal during Thursday's meeting.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

When St. Louis Alderman Scott Ogilvie proposed limiting political donations for St. Louis-based offices three years ago, the 24th Ward Democrat wanted to place curbs on what he felt was an abnormal state campaign finance system.

He’s introducing the legislation again, and there may an added sense of urgency to pass Ogilvie’s bill – especially if a campaign finance ballot initiative makes it into the Missouri Constitution.

State Rep. Jeremy LaFaver, D-Kansas City, raises his hand to speak before the House of Representatives adjourned.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

It's fair to say that Deb Lavender is quite persistent.

The Kirkwood Democrat ran unsuccessfully for a state House three times before finally winning election in 2014. None of the races were easy: She had to knock on a lot of doors, raise a lot of money and lose to former Rep. Rick Stream three times before reaching the legislative promised land.

Margaux Harris, 7, granddaughter of Rep. Mike Lair, throws papers in the air shortly after members of the House did the same to mark the end of the legislative session.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

For the most part, the dwindling moments of the 2016 session of the Missouri General Assembly were familiar: Paper got tossed. Press conferences transpired. And lawmakers get to spend the next few months far away from Jefferson City (with the exception, of course, of the legislators that represent that town).

But the last week of session did provide some notable insights and surprises: From the passage of a wide-ranging gun bill to the somewhat surprising resignation of a state senator, there was plenty of news to keep bespectacled reporters busy.

Ferguson Police Chief Delrish Moss greets residents, supporters and protesters at the city police department hours after being sworn in as chief.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When Delrish Moss saw the turmoil and chaos unfold in Ferguson, it hit close to home.

Before he was sworn in on Monday as Ferguson’s top law enforcement officer, Moss spent several decades in the Miami Police Department. He said the unrest that followed Michael Brown’s death was reminiscent of what he’s witnessed firsthand in Miami.

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