Dean Plocher wants to keep working to “protect our farmland from China, our classrooms from liberal indoctrination, our families from Biden’s failed economy and our communities from the progressive crime wave.”
So, the term-limited Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives Wednesday announced his campaign for lieutenant governor in the 2024 election cycle – which will take place after his final session as speaker.
Missouri’s lieutenant governor stands in for the governor when necessary and oversees tourism and veterans’ matters, but principally is president of the state Senate.
Plocher, a lifelong resident of St. Louis County and graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont and Saint Louis University School of Law, described his trajectory into law and politics as one propelled by deteriorating conditions in society.
“Once I returned home after college I saw the crime infecting my community so I became a prosecutor. I witnessed the inconsistencies in punishing criminals, so I became a judge.
“I realized the ineffectiveness of our laws, so I became a state representative. And as Speaker of the House, I experienced the frustration of accomplishing conservative politics against the efforts of selfish politicians.”
While taking care to praise his colleagues over in the Senate – and to say that he’s not running to “tell the Senate how to run its show” – Plocher says he hopes he can lead a consensus to pass more legislation beneficial to residents.
“I’ve served in the House for the last eight years,” Plocher said in an exclusive interview with The Heartlander. “I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a long haul. We’ve gotten a lot of good things done. We pass a lot of good stuff out of the House to die in the Senate. And I understand that the Senate has a different role, but the lieutenant governor position is sort of a hybrid. You serve as president of the Senate, yet you’re the only statewide elected official.
“So, my hope is to work with the Senate, which I have a lot of friends in. We’ll continue to work with the House, where I think I’ve demonstrated leadership being speaker, and with the executive branch, the governor – and to push more legislation that’s worthy conservative legislation across the finish line.
“We have the supermajority. We need to start acting like it.”
Plocher touts the legislature’s having cut taxes, including exempting Social Security from state income taxes; expanded “Stand Your Ground” and “Castle Doctrine” laws providing for self-defense; banning abortions; and passing the “Cleaner Missouri” constitutional amendment overturning “Clean Missouri” to provide for a bipartisan commission appointed by the governor to redraw legislative districts.
“We kept our representative districts compact and contiguous for elected officials to better represent the population,” he says.
Plocher says he’s also proud of the 2022 No Patient Left Alone Act requiring healthcare facilities to allow at least two visitors, so patients don’t die devoid of loved ones as so often happened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, he says a top priority remains undone: raising the state’s threshold for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments to pass. Currently it takes only a simple majority. The House has repeatedly passed bills requiring such amendments to receive at least 57% of the public vote.
“I argue we need to have a little bit of a greater threshold to that so that when people are proposing things to amend the Constitution, they have to be better vetted, there’s more transparency to the process,” Plocher says.
“And we’ve passed that out of the House for five years now. The Senate has just not taken that up for a vote. That’s something that I’m proud of working on in the House. I would love to see it get across the line (in the Senate).
“I would like to help the Senate take things up for votes and show Missourians that we stand for something and we’re willing to vote on some things.
“I have a lot of friends in the Senate and I appreciate all they do. It’s hard to vet legislation. It’s hard to pass legislation, as it should be. We don’t need to be passing a million laws. But I think we do need to take a position sometimes and merely take the vote.
“So, I would hope to help some voting along, if you will, in the Senate by compromising and working with the House, the Senate and the governor’s office.”
While Plocher is again careful to note he’s not running to change Senate rules, he does cite the chamber’s allowance for endless filibusters.
“I think when you have a majority, you have to work together. And I think instead of sitting there in frustration and watching people read books in filibuster mode, that’s not the way government was intended to be done. Government’s intended to work together, come together, compromise, create solutions for people and take them to a vote.”
Plocher says he’s certainly willing to entertain Senate rule changes, “but that’s not necessarily my role. I’m not here trying to usurp the Senate. My goal is to work with the Senate, and that continues to be my goal as speaker.
“The Senate has its sandbox; the House has its sandbox. I’m not here to tell the Senate how to run its show. And as lieutenant governor I’m not going to tell the House how to run its show. I pride myself on the fact that I try to get along with everybody and work with them – more of a collaborative effort, that’s what I’m proposing.”
Plocher says that, as a trained lawyer with his own firm, he understands the care needed to write legislation that is simple, protects constitutional rights, stands up to court challenges and doesn’t create more problems than it seeks to solve. He points to the hopelessly meandering marijuana legalization amendment that “added 20 pages to our Constitution. I haven’t found anyone yet that truly understands exactly what those 20 pages do when it comes to the law.”
Besides initiative-petition reform, Plocher said he’d like to see sports betting legalized. Though not a gamer himself, he sees a need for consumer protections from wagering platforms that “can be based in China or Russia,” as well as the tax benefits being reaped by nearby states that have legalized it.
“There’s a lot of things that you could work on with the executive branch and the legislative branch of government to help move Missouri further in the right direction.
“We are moving in the right direction. I’m really proud of where our state is right now. We are one of six states, I believe, that have a Triple-A bond rating. Fiscally, we’re really stable, we’re competing, and that’s where we want to be. But I think there’s more that can be done.”
For instance, Plocher supports universal school choice, as several surrounding states have passed.
“I stand for school choice. I’ve stood for school choice. I even would go further than many, I believe. I’ve strongly advocated for the open enrollment bill that we pushed through the House again this year that failed to make it across the line in the Senate. I voted in support of charter schools.
“I believe people need to have choices. Our tax dollars should afford you some choices. And I think competition leads to a better result. I’m a capitalist, and I think when people have choices they tend to put their money where they see better results.
“And I don’t think there’s anything more important for results than an education, when it comes to how you’re going to be able to stand on your own two feet as you grow older and assume the age of majority and enter the workforce and raise a family.”
Why should Missouri voters care who their lieutenant governor is?
“I think Missourians should care, no matter who it is holding any elected office,” Plocher says, “because as any elected office – all the way from the governor down to your city alderman to school board – you have an effect by what you do. You work on what your kids are being taught in school. You work on how much taxes you’re paying, how your healthcare system works, how your roads look.
“I think as a conservative, we’re here to try to create a level playing field and let people compete, and not create a disproportionate effect one way or the other in the law, but allow people equal access; give them an education, help them build from the ground up. It starts with an education.
“I think people should be concerned about whomever is elected, period.”