Thursday, march 24, 2011

Senate Grades

John Lamping: A

Sen. John Lamping wins strong marks across the board.


 “He seems to be embracing the role of Senator well, particularly for someone with no prior legislative experience… After a little more playing time he will likely become one of the go-to senators to handle complex issues that others don’t want to tackle.”


Still he’s not necessarily comfortable yet with this this strange alternative universe he’s been sucked into:  “He’s shown great intellectual insight into debates. Chimes in and makes great points, but always makes people wonder if he is questioning why he is here…”

And another makes a similar point: “Lamping is going to be good, he is still in thought process that government should move as nimbly as the private sector.  I wish it could, but...”


Dempsey: A- 

Sen. Tom Dempsey has done a decent job running the Floor, and is said to be a steady rudder in leadership meetings.  But this easy A could fall apart in the last six weeks.  For the Senate Floor Leader, the final counts for 90% of the grade.


As the contentious issues will face their moment of truth, the waters will become choppy, and we’ll see the measure of his skills.



Victor Callahan: A-

Says one lobbyist, “Victor would be viable if he were a caucus of one.” 


Still Sen. Victor Callahan has the worst hand ever dealt a Democratic minority leader.  Furthermore, as with Sen. Dempsey, it’s hard to evaluate his strategy until the final chapter is written on this session. 


But clearly he’s read his Sun Tzu “avoid the enemy while he is stronger… if they are untied, try to sow dissension.”  So far he hasn’t marshaled his Caucus to fight where they can’t win, and he’s stepped away to avoid getting in between two tussling Republicans, but will his efforts prevent the nuclear PQ from going off in the last week?  We’ll see….





Eric Schmitt: B+

As smart as he is tall, Sen. Eric Schmitt has had moved the Franchise tax phase-out quickly through the chamber, despite its price-tag in a tight budget.  He does his homework on his legislation and his colleagues show their comfort with his due diligence that he rarely sees the harsh questioning to which other senators are subjected.  


He’s been on dais a lot more often, with a demeanor that makes the future floor leader talk seem sensible.


Finally, his last big challenge this session will determine whether he can ascend to an A final grade.  He held a successful hearing on the China Hub legislation in his Economic Development Committee.  Still, he’ll need all his political capital, charms and to see the $480 million tax credit to Governor Jay Nixon’s desk.


Scott Rupp: B+

Sen. Scott Rupp gets a B+ by coasting on his record of productive session, but the truth is that we’re not seeing or hearing much from Rupp so far.  That’s a stark departure from him moving multiple pieces early in previous sessions.  Chalk it up to his Redistricting Committee keeping him busy, and his December wedding elevating his family time. 



Engler: B

Sen. Kevin Engler is still simmering from what he viewed as a betrayal by Sen. Rob Mayer.  He could’ve taken his taken his ball and gone home – stayed in his office, disengaged.  But he hasn’t.


Instead, with pointed exceptions – for example joining Sen. Jason Crowell and insisting on a Workers’ Comp compromise – he’s taken up position on the periphery of the action… lurking… yet still a visible and constant presence.  And every time he stands the suspense of the chamber is drawn tight.  Those senators who went public with the mutiny will likely have some legislative scars by session’s end.


And in committee Engler is constructively grooming Sen. Jay Wasson as his successor by consulting him with each major decision, a sign that in his heart the statesman still lives.





Rob Mayer: B-

This mid-term grade is meaningless.  Just wait until I put on my hindsight glasses!  All of  Mayer’s decisions will be subjected to June quarterbacking depending on how the next six weeks go. 


But whether due to the “great divide” of 2011 over Senate leadership or a result of personality, Sen. Rob Mayer does not seem to have the style, nor power of his predecessor Sen. Charlie Shields.



Ron Richard: Gentleman’s C

Sen. Ron Richard has gone from being Speaker to not saying a peep.  Not a terrible strategy, but probably not a strategy either.



Robin Wright Jones: C

Sen. Robin Wright Jones has been more vocal, at least in committee.  And that’s worth something.


But his recent mini-scandal undermines her incremental progress as a senator.  The saddest part of the Four Seasons Hotel suing her for thousands of dollars in an unpaid birthday party bill isn’t that she asked lobbyists to cover her tab. It’s that they haven’t.


It’s a reminder how far gone are the days when St. Louis City had power-brokers like Jet Banks, commanding the respect (and fear) of lobbyists and political rivals.



Rob Schaaf: C-

Sen. Rob Schaaf has “great points, but needs to pick his battles otherwise he won’t be taken seriously on anything.  That is a hard balance to achieve.”


The consistent assessment of Schaaf is one of weariness.  Best summed up by this observation, “when he stands up, people think ‘oh shit,’ and exit the chamber as quickly as possible.”


Or this: “being a pain over and over not a good long-term strategy.”  


So why a C- and not the lower grades of other senators?  Because I have a softness in my heart for the engaged, even those who do so with an ill-advised insipidness.



Will Kraus, Brian Nieves: D+

Some House members come to the Senate as serious people, and within their first few months in the Senate, solidify their reputation.  Sen. Mike Parson, for example, took the lead in the Prop B overhaul).  


That’s not how Sens. Will Kraus and Brian Nieves have started their Senate careers.


In joining Sen. Jim Lembke by making outrage of federal overreach the centerpiece of their first term, they risk similar irrelevance. 


It’s possible to change course, but on this trajectory they won’t be in the mix when things actually need to happen. 


As one observer says, “someday Kraus will need something for his district” and that’s when his Senate start may come back to haunt him.  Another reviews Nieves’ legislative agenda so far as launching “demagogic attacks on everyone from President Barack Obama to James Harris to Missouri journalists.”  Adds another: “will someone take the cap lock off his keyboard?”



Jason Crowell

Sen. Jason Crowell is like my brother, a drop-out, who doesn’t care about the vulgarities of “grades” and such.   


The Senate watchers are already rubbing their hands for “the great showdown of smarts, impatience, and temper” that might explode between Crowell and Sen. Kurt Schaefer when the budget hits the Senate floor.



Chilenski Retires

St. Louis Democratic campaign manager David Chilenski retired yesterday from political campaigns. With expertise in polling, field and mail, Chilenski was one of the best in the City.


He helped elect Rep. Jamiliah Nasheed in 2006 and Reps. Mike Colona and Chris Carter in 2008. 


Chilenski, 35, will continue a few political consulting projects, but no more campaigns and the disruption they bring to his spending time with son, Daniel, 1.



Tweet of the Day

publiceyestl Richard Callow

Standing by for legislation banning MO courts from applying laws based on the Jedi Code or the Rules of Major League Baseball.



Lobbyist Principals Changes

From the Pelopidas website:


John E Bardgett Jr added ESA OF Missouri and deleted Missouri Burglar and Fire Alarm Association.



$5k+ Contributions

Lewis & Clark Regional Leadership Fund - $12,000 from HTH Companies.

Citizens for a Smoke-free Cape - $24,750 from American Cancer Society.

Missourians for Koster - $12,500 from James Holloran.




Happy birthday today to Tony Wyche, Mike Gibbons (52) and Al Liese.


Tomorrow Rep. Jason Holsman turns 35, and Sunday Rep. Mike Leara celebrate #51.



MOScout News

Spring Break! No Update tomorrow, Weekly Summary out later today, see you next week…