The learning curve of the newbies

(Part three of our series leading up to inauguration day looks at the loss of experience Missouri faces in its top offices and ponders what fresh attitudes might mean.)

College students used to call it “cramming.”  Maybe they still do.  “All-nighters,” some said, referring to last-day, around-the-clock studying for finals, sometimes trying to make up for leisure approaches to the books during the semester.

It occurs to us that several of our elected people are having something of an equivalent experience in these weeks leading up to their assumption of office.  We’re trading a lot of experienced leaders for a new group that has a lot to learn before inauguration day and will learn a lot in the first year afterwards.

Consider:

Jay Nixon is leaving the governorship after eight years in that office, sixteen years as Attorney General, and six years in the Missouri Senate.  Thirty years of experience in state government.  Replacing him is Eric Greitens who has never held elective office.

Peter Kinder holds the record as the longest-serving Lieutenant Governor in Missouri history and is just the second person elected to three terms.  Frank Harris, first elected in 1933, died during his third term in 1944, a few days before he would have finished twelve years.  Before becoming Lieutenant Governor, Kinder was a state senator for twelve years.   To illustrate how times have changed, remember this: Kinder was the only Republican elected to statewide office in 2008.  Next month, the only people on the inauguration platform who will raise their right hands in the chill January air will be Republicans. Kinder will be replaced by Mike Parson, a sheriff in Polk County for twelve years before serving six years in the Missouri House, and six years in the Missouri Senate.  Kinder leaves with 24 years in state office.  Parson comes in with 24 years in elective office, half of that time in the legislature.  Although a newbie in statewide office, he’s no stranger to elective positions or to the state government process.

Jason Kander leaves the Secretary of State’s office after four years there and four years at a state representative.  He’s made it clear we haven’t seen the last of him although what that means is open to some speculation that has been fueled recently by a trip to Iowa for a major speech.  His replacement is Jay Ashcroft, who has never held elective office before—although he knows some of the pressures and pleasures of doing so by growing up as his father served as Missouri Auditor, Attorney General, Governor, and U. S. Senator. Looking ahead, we should note that there has been only one time in Missouri history when the son of a former governor was elected to that position.  John Sappington Marmaduke (elected in 1885, died in office in 1887) was the son of Meredith Miles Marmaduke (who became governor in 1844 after Thomas Reynolds committed suicide).

State Treasurer Clint Zweifel became Missouri’s youngest State Treasurer in more than a century when he took office eight years ago at the age of 35.  He was in the House for six years before that. He decided fourteen years in state politics is enough, at least for now.  His successor, Eric Schmitt, won’t be the youngest but is likely to lay quick claim to being the tallest.  He leaves the state senate after eight years.  He was a city alderman in Glendale for four years before that.  Schmitt has enjoyed claiming that he is the tallest person ever to serve in the state senate although our research suggests there was a senator early in the last century who might have been just as tall.  For more on that controversy, you can check our investigative piece on the old Missourinet Blog, http://blog.missourinet.com/2014/04/04/bmis/.

Chris Koster steps down after eight years as Attorney General, four years in the Missouri Senate, and ten years as a county prosecutor.  He’ll be replaced by Josh Hawley who has not held elective office before.

All of this means that three of the five statewide offices that will be filled on inauguration day will be taken over by people who have never served in elective office. We will leave it to another person to determine if this is unique in Missouri history.  It certainly seems to be in our experience.

The raw numbers, which are interesting if not particularly meaningful in terms of measuring capability to do a job, look like this:  Missouri is losing 88 years of experience in state-level office experience and getting twenty years of state-level office experience.

To round things out, we note that State Auditor Nicole Galloway, whose office comes up for election in the off-year of 2018, was the Boone County Treasurer for four years before becoming Auditor less than two years ago.

This is the first time since 1993 that new people will be sworn into these five offices on inauguration day. Mel Carnahan became Governor in ‘93. Roger Wilson was Lt. Governor.  Judy Moriarty became Secretary of State. Bob Holden became Treasurer.  Jay Nixon became Attorney General.

This is only the fifth time in sixty years that we’ve had a turnover of all five offices.  It has happened only seven times in the last 88 years.

The five relative newbies who will take office next month know they will assume a state with a lot of problems, as their predecessors knew they were inheriting the state’s problems. This will be an interesting, maybe an exciting, time for Missouri as we see how government is viewed through fresh eyes and shaped with new hands.

One thought on “The learning curve of the newbies

  1. It’s worth noting that in 1993 there was a very experienced press corps working for independent and fiercely competitive news organizations that did a good job telling citizens what was going on in the Capitol. Tweets, blogs and websites are no substitute. There are still good reporters, but the experience in elective office holders isn’t the only thing that has changed in the Capitol.

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