Missouri House Republicans to focus on taxes, economy

Missouri Republicans said Wednesday that they would use their historic number of state House seats to focus on economic development, taxes and the courts.

Pushed forward by a strong political wind at their back, the Republicans appeared to pick up 17 state House seats while knocking off nearly a dozen incumbents. That would give the Republicans control of 106 of the House’s 163 seats — or about 65 percent of the chamber. It takes 82 seats to control the House, and all 163 seats were up for election.

Republican leader Steven Tilley told reporters Wednesday that he planned to focus on regulatory, tax and legal system changes. Tilley, of Perryville, said he also would defend tax credits and other economic development tools.

“We’re going to work day in and day out to make sure that Missouri is as business-friendly as we can possibly be and make sure that anyone who wants a job can find one,” he said.

GOP leaders said Wednesday that their victories had given Republicans more House seats than ever before. Republicans’ nearly two-thirds share of the House is the GOP’s largest since 1929 when it held about 68 percent of a smaller chamber.

House Democratic leader Mike Talboy of Kansas City attributed the electoral losses to a national move against Democrats this year.

“When you have a cataclysmic type of event at the national level that seemed to cause a tidal wave across the country, at the local level it’s very easy to get caught up in that,” Talboy said.

Republicans also appeared to pick up three seats in the 34-member state Senate, where half of the districts were on the ballot. The GOP started the election with 23 seats, and it takes 18 to control the Senate. That would give the Republicans their largest Senate majority in at least a century, and the most lopsided partisan divide in the Senate in about half a century.

Among the Republican gains were the defeats of two Democratic state senators who were seeking re-election to their rural districts.

Republican state Rep. Brian Munzlinger, of Williamstown, defeated Democratic Sen. Wes Shoemyer, of Clarence, for a rural northeastern Missouri district. And Republican state Rep. Dan Brown, of Rolla, knocked off Democratic Sen. Frank Barnitz, of Lake Spring, in a largely rural district in central Missouri.

Republicans have controlled the Missouri House since the 2002 election and the state Senate since 2001.

This year’s gains mean that Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon will face a Legislature dominated by Republicans for the last two years of his first term. Nixon spokesman Sam Murphey said the governor will keep working with lawmakers to improve the state’s economy and boost employment.

“Now that the campaigns are over, Gov. Nixon looks forward to working with all the newly elected and returning legislators in both the House and the Senate when they reconvene next year,” Murphey said.

House Republicans met in the Capitol on Wednesday to select their leaders.

Shane Schoeller, of Willard, was picked to be the Republican candidate for speaker pro tem. Tim Jones, of Eureka, was chosen as the House majority leader. Previously, Tilley was chosen to be the GOP candidate for House speaker.

The other Republican leaders will be Jeanie Riddle, of Mokane; Jason Smith, of Salem; Shelley Keeney, of Marble Hill; and Sue Allen, of Town and Country.

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