This shouldn’t even need to be said, but character matters in Missouri politics. Most in the Show-Me State have long touted their support for traditional family values, faith, patriotism, law and order, and guns.
Just before every election, we can count on an endless supply of TV ads, radio spots, and flyers in our mailboxes showing clean cut smiling faces with a shotgun slung over their shoulder. Sometimes they’re even holding a Bible. Often they’re wearing blue jeans or plaid to convince us they’re men or women of the people. Common folk. One of us.
But sometimes it seems that once the votes are counted and a victory is declared, new details emerge about those smiling faces. Details that were kept hidden before voters went to the polls. Details that might make Missourians think twice before casting their ballot.
Character, or Characters?
Bad behavior certainly isn’t new. History buffs will recall Thomas Pendergast and his political machine around the time of the Great Depression. Those directly involved were aware of what was going on, but Pendergast got away with a whole lot for a really long time without the general public finding out.
Not so today. Given the easy access to technology, news feeds and social media platforms give instant oxygen to political scandals. Take for example, former Speaker of the House Rod Jetton from southeast Missouri. Jetton pledged to protect traditional family values but found himself in hot water over a sexual scandal in 2009.
John Diel, also a Speaker of the House, resigned in 2015 after sexually inappropriate text messages with a college intern were uncovered.
However, the prize goes to former Governor Eric Greitens — we’ll call him the Grand Poobah of Show-Me State scandals — whose extra-marital escapades made national headlines and gave comedians plenty of off-color material for months.
2021 Legislative Session: Off to an “Interesting” Start
The 2021 legislative session is only about a month in, and we’ve already got our hands full with three scandals and counting. In a near unanimous vote, the House censured Rep. Wiley Price for allegedly having sex with an intern. Price won his seat in 2018.
Rep. Rick Roeber, who voters elected in November, has already been barred from caucusing with his party after allegations of him abusing his now-adult children surfaced. Roeber ran for his wife’s Rebecca Roeber’s seat following her tragic death from a car accident in 2019.
However, the scandal that seems to be getting the most attention so far is the one involving Rep. Tricia Derges. Voters elected Derges elected in November. Derges is under federal indictment for medical fraud. Equally disturbing it seems, is that three bills Derges filed in January (HB 550, HB 551, HB 916) were fully intended to help her personally.
Note to Future Candidates: Character Matters
Missouri’s known nationally for our natural resources. We have some of the most beautiful streams, caves, and hills anywhere. We also have a wealth of really great people. People with integrity, honesty, and a moral compass that never falters. We have friends, neighbors, and community members who have a public servant’s heart. They’re intelligent and love to work with people. These are the kinds of people who should be running for public office.
Regardless of political party affiliation, we should be seeking out such people, encouraging them, and then supporting their campaign efforts. We need to stop leaving up the choice of candidates to consultants who make decisions based on how well someone looks in front of a camera. We’ve got too much work that needs to be done and the stakes are too high. Missourians need to remind those in elected office that character matters in Missouri politics.
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