Politically Speaking: Rep. Curtis on his big political win — and a proposed tobacco tax
On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum is joined by colleague Stephanie Lecci and St. Louis American reporter Rebecca Rivas. The trio welcomed state Rep. Courtney Curtis to the show for the first time.
The Ferguson Democrat won a competitive primary last week for re-election. Because winning the Democratic primary in his north St. Louis County-based district is tantamount to election, Curtis will likely get to serve a third term in the Missouri House after 2017.
Curtis is a McCluer Senior High School graduate who attended the University of Missouri-Columbia and Columbia College. He first won election to the Missouri House in 2012, when he defeated Democrat Doug Clemens in a district that was without an incumbent due to redistricting.
As one of several Missouri House members who represent part of Ferguson, Curtis’ profile expanded after the shooting death of Michael Brown in August 2014. He was a key member of the Fannie Lou Hamer Coalition, a group of black north St. Louis County officials that backed Republican Rick Stream over Democrat Steve Stenger in the 2014 race for St. Louis County executive.
Curtis made waves at the beginning of the 2015 legislative session over his sponsorship of legislation implementing “right to work” for construction unions. He was the only Democrat last year to vote to override right to work, which would no longer require people who work for a unionized entity to pay dues as a condition of employment.
Here’s what Curtis had to say during the show:
- After living in Columbia for more than a decade, Curtis said it didn’t seem like his hometown of Ferguson progressed that much. “So since I was unmarried and didn’t have any children, I thought I had some extra time and energy to try and make things better at least for my niece who was on the way,” he said.
- Curtis says his four-way primary’s dynamics changed when the Humphreys family gave his campaign $50,000. He ended up facing three opponents with close ties to organized labor, and it’s possible that the glut of contenders helped him eke out a narrow victory.
- Like other African-American officials in St. Louis County, Curtis has been critical of local legislation that would require contractors with government contracts to have apprenticeship training programs. He says that would have “legalized discrimination,” because only unions (which are the only entities allowed to hold apprenticeship programs) would be eligible for those contracts. Curtis’ response was sponsoring “right to work” for construction trades, which he says sent a loud message to unions that they needed to be more inclusive.
- Curtis was critical of Attorney General Chris Koster’s decision to oppose a tobacco tax increase to fund early childhood education. “It’s proven that if you get an early start, then you can be better,” he said. “So if he’s saying that we don’t need that early start, then I’d wish him well.”
Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum
Follow Stephanie Lecci on Twitter: @stephlecci
Follow Rebecca Rivas on Twitter: @rebeccarivas
Follow Courtney Curtis on Twitter: @curtisformo
Music: “You Are a Runner and I Am My Father's Son” by Wolf Parade