‘Tired of seeing us bicker’: Missouri’s elected leaders hope divisiveness is over

(The Center Square) – Missourians are tired of divisiveness and bickering amongst elected leaders and want progress, according to leaders from both parties.

Following Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s State of the State address on Wednesday, there wasn’t a negative word spoken or a pessimistic view communicated throughout the entire capital. It provided a contrast to last year.

“Not only was it an election year, it was a redistricting year,” House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, told reporters in reference to the 2022 decennial drawing of new state and federal boundaries for elected officials. “We had folks on the other side of the aisle who were running against each other for every single position possible. When that happens, you get extremes and that’s what happened last year. What will happen this session is yet to be determined.”

Quade said she’s confident the current atmosphere in the capital can lead to better government.

“The citizens are tired of seeing us bicker and fight – fight about whether or not I have to have sleeves on my jacket,” Quade said, referring to a dress code debate on the House floor. “That is not what the people sent us here to do. And so I am very glad that we’re able to have this conversation today where we say we agree with the governor, let’s get to work.”

Republican Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe said Parson’s tactic of having more than a dozen children from across the state walk down the middle aisle of the House at the end of the speech was an attempt to unify.

“I really believe the country and the state is tired of divisive politics,” Kehoe, who announced he will run for governor in 2024, said in an interview with The Center Square. “And when you can bring issues that people can agree on to move the state forward, I think that’s what Missourians want. We can all be passionate about our core issues. I certainly am very passionate about some of my core beliefs. And that’s OK. You can be passionate and you can govern at the same time.”

Parson’s budget included millions of additional funding for elementary and secondary education and higher education. More than $90 million is proposed to improve Missouri’s maternal mortality and provide behavioral health services for an additional 7,198 people.

“You didn’t hear him mention trans kids, you didn’t hear him mention [critical race theory], you didn’t hear him mention abortion,” Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, a ranking minority member on the budget committee, said in an interview with The Center Square. “You didn’t hear him mention guns, which was a mistake in my opinion. But he put the focus on important things. And there also was less for us to be bothered by.”

Merideth also said the minority party’s relationship with the governor, with the majority party and the Senate are currently better than last year.

“When I get out of my car all across the state, I don’t care if I’m in the city or some rural county, the first thing they don’t ask you is ‘What party are you in?’” Kehoe said. “They ask you if you’re getting anything done. So I think that’s what Missourians want – people who can face tough problems, figure out how to solve them and then lead to a solution.”

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