The Missouri Legislature’s Veto Session: Fodder for Campaign Ads

After some intense campaigning on both sides of the income tax cut bill, Gov. Jay Nixon emerged with a tightly won victory.

Of course, he had 10 other vetoes overridden by the Republican-controlled Missouri General Assembly. But the two most controversial and attention-getting bills failed to pass. The biggest losers from the marathon, more than 12-hour veto session, however, may turn out to be the Republican lawmakers in the House who voted against the tax cut bill.

Several groups (and some well known conservatives) have attacked them for being “Republicans in Name Only,” or “RINOs.” There’s a Wall of Shame post put up by United for Missouri, one of the groups that vigorously supported an override. Dana Loesch, a well-known conservative commentator, called for the 15 Republicans who voted against the tax cut to be challenged in primaries. And the Club for Growth, another pro-tax-cut group, tweeted asking for $15 donations to “help get rid of Missouri RINOs.”

So the votes taken on Wednesday may well become key points in the next round of elections for Missouri legislative seats in 2014. Or maybe there will be a completely new issue that’s distracted everyone or a more recent vote on the topic of taxes to fend off accusations of “RINO”-ness.

The other noteworthy campaign-related information to come from the veto session relates to two potential 2016 campaigns. On Thursday, one reporter working at Missouri Digital News/KMOX (where I serve as an editorial fellow one day each week this semester) got an interview with House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka.

Jones said that while he’d not “made an official announcement” he intended to run for attorney general. That’s not exactly the most shocking news, but it’s a more official confirmation than I’ve previously seen (there’d been some speculation he might run for secretary of state). He did make some attacks on Attorney General Chris Koster (who switched to the Democratic party back in 2007), calling him “no comment Koster” and criticizing his performance in the office.

Koster plans to run for governor in 2016. He involved himself in the veto session by issuing two different legal opinions on the big news – tax cuts and guns. Both letters opposed the Republican-supported bills.

On the floor of the Senate on Wednesday, Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, called Koster out and said the letter was politically motivated or Koster was “too dumb to be attorney general.”

Now, the reason the gun bill failed isn’t because of Republicans in the House (it scraped through with 109 votes) but because the Republican leadership in the Senate shielded their party’s members from having to vote against it and, perhaps, facing the same criticisms as the so-called “flimsy 15.”

That’s very different from the route Jones, planning a run for attorney general, took. It’ll be interesting to see if any of that even matters by the time 2014 and then 2016 roll around. Something to look forward to.

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