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Politically Speaking: Former Sen. Talent makes the case against passing Clean Missouri

Former U.S. Sen. Tim Talent
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Former U.S. Sen. Tim Talent

Former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent joins St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies on the latest episode of Politically Speaking. The Republican served in various federal and state capacities for more than 20 years.

While Talent is no longer a candidate himself, he is leading the charge against a constitutional amendment known as Clean Missouri.

A Cole County judge ordered that Clean Missouri be removed from the November ballot on Friday, but proponents of the measure are appealing the ruling.

Talent is a St. Louis County native who has served in the Missouri House, the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate. He lost to U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2006. While many Missouri Republicans have wanted Talent to run again for statewide office since then, he has stayed out of the electoral fray — and instead becamean expert on defense and national-security policy.

This election cycle, Talent is turning his attention to Clean Missouri. Among other things, it would curtail lobbyist gifts, make small changes to campaign-finance laws and make it more difficult for a lawmaker to become a lobbyist. But both Republicans and Democrats agree that a central part of the initiative is an overhaul of the state legislative redistricting process.Loading...

Currently, bipartisan commissions are tasked with drawing new state House and Senate lines after a census is complete. In recent years, these commissions have often deadlocked — which effectively means appellate judges that the Missouri Supreme Court appoints draw the lines.

Clean Missouri would turn much of the power to draw districts over to a demographer. That person would have to create districts based on specific criteria, most notably “partisan fairness” and “competitiveness.” (You can listen to a past episode of Politically Speaking with Clean Missouri proponentsby clicking here.)

While Clean Missouri has support from Republicans, including former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, other members of the GOP are organizing in opposition to the measure. Talent believes that the initiative is aiming to give Democrats an advantage in the redistricting process. He also contends that the process could be manipulated, as the state auditor would play a major role in solicting candidates to be the state demographer.

Here’s what Talent said during the show:

  • Talent says the Clean Missouri proponents haven’t made a strong case that the current redistricting system is substandard. He said the way it’s set up now either requires the bipartisan commissions to compromise — or judges who are part of the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan to make the final decision. “The system is meant to protect against partisan manipulation,” he said.
  • Clean Missouri includes language saying districts have to conform to the federal Voting Rights Act — and has the backing of a number of civil rights groups. But Talent believes that creating more competitive districts in St. Louis will require lowering the percentage of African-American inside some state legislative districts — and, therefore, decreasing the number of black lawmakers.
  • Talent doesn’t have any objection to the other items in Clean Missouri. But he believes they were put into the measure to make the redistricting portion of the initiative more palatable to voters. “I think it’s a little much in a referendum that’s supposed to be about clean government and ethics in government when 70 percent of it is about something that’s a massive constitutional change in the way you draw these maps,” he said.
  • Talent said it’s tough for any senator in a competitive state to win a third term — which is why he believes McCaskill is vulnerable. “What we don’t know, is this going to be a big blue-wave election?” he said. “I think it’s going to be a Democratic year — but how much I don’t know. I think it’s still pretty fluid.”

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter:@jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter:@jmannies

Follow Jim Talent on Twitter:@JimTalent

Music: “A Fault Line, A Fault of Mine” by Underoath

Copyright 2018 St. Louis Public Radio

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.
Since entering the world of professional journalism in 2006, Jason Rosenbaum dove head first into the world of politics, policy and even rock and roll music. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Rosenbaum spent more than four years in the Missouri State Capitol writing for the Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri Lawyers Media and the St. Louis Beacon. Since moving to St. Louis in 2010, Rosenbaum's work appeared in Missouri Lawyers Media, the St. Louis Business Journal and the Riverfront Times' music section. He also served on staff at the St. Louis Beacon as a politics reporter. Rosenbaum lives in Richmond Heights with with his wife Lauren and their two sons.