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Democrats change leaders in Missouri legislature

November 05, 1998
By: Najeeb Hasan
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - There was a changing of guard in Democratic leadership while a Republican leader under criticism for a sub par GOP showing in Tuesday's elections stayed put, as party caucuses for both the House and Senate convened Thursday.

House Minority Floor Leader Delbert Scott retained minority leadership after the Republican caucus met to elect officers for the 1999-2000 General Assembly.

Scott staved off a challenge by former Minority Leader Mark Richardson, R-Butler County, in the caucus elections. Richardson was replaced by Scott as floor leader after facing charges of drunk driving and child-endangerment.

Some Republicans had voiced that an abysmal showing by the GOP campaign in Tuesday's elections, where Republicans managed no gains in the House, should constitute a change in floor leadership.

"Frankly, I'm disappointed," said Rep. Jim Murphy, R-St. Louis County. "I think we needed new blood with a focused goal of increasing house membership. The focus of a leader is an increase in the number of republicans and the two applicants for the job have a record for not doing that. I thought it was time to give another person a chance."

Serving as Minority Leader in 1995 and 1996 Richardson had lost one seat, while Scott has been able to gain back just one seat in the two years he has held leadership.

"I think the fact that we didn't lose any incumbents shows the hard work of the caucus," said Scott. "The other side had better finances and maybe better organization."

In House majority elections, Majority Floor Leader Gracia Backer, D-Callaway County, stepped aside to allow for Assistant Floor Leader Wayne Crump's ascension to the leadership role. Backer's move leaves each one of next session's leadership offices in Missouri's legislature held by men.

"Instead of going through vote and dividing the caucus, she [Backer] decided not to be nominated which held the caucus together a lot better and makes us all go the same direction," Crump said.

Meanwhile, unprecedented for more than three decades, the St. Louis metro area cannot boast representation in next session's legislative leadership. Senate Democrats opted to throne Kansas City area's Ronnie DePasco, D-Jackson County, as Majority leader, rather than electing St. Louis county candidate Wayne Goode, D-St. Louis County.

"I hope that's not a big problem," Goode said. "I was a candidate because they needed geographic representation, but I had more support outside than I did inside. The Senate's a small body, so I don't think it will be a problem."