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Politically Speaking: James Harris Optimistic About Missouri GOP's Fortunes

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Radio reporters Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies continue their mini-series on Missouri’s top behind-the-scenes players. For this week’s show, Rosenbaum and Mannies welcomed Republican political consultant James Harris to the show. 

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Harris, a Washington, Mo., native, has worked as a political consultant on and off for well over a decade. Harris served on Texas Republican John Carter’s successful campaign for Congress in 2002. He eventually came back to the Show Me State to serve in Gov. Matt Blunt’s administration.

Harris left the Republican governor’s administration in 2006 and has gone on to consult for Republican candidates such as state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, and U.S. Rep. Billy Long, R-Springfield. He’s also helped corporations navigate doing business in countries such as Mongolia.

On the show, Harris said:

  • He first got into politics thanks to his father, a Republican committeeman in Franklin County. Harris and his father went door-to-door for county commissioner candidates, as well as for Republican John Ashcroft.
  • His first big race was an eight-way primary for Carter, who was known as the “Hanging Judge.” Carter won that race, and Harris became his chief of staff.
  • Before he began a stint as Blunt’s director of appointments to the Boards and Commissions, Harris said he was told that he would make “one person happy and six or seven upset" in dealing with any major appointments.  As a result of controversy over the state's "fee offices,'' which handle licenses for drivers and vehicles, Blunt began phasing out the longstanding practice where governors doled out control of the offices to supporters.  Blunt initiated the bidding process that now is state law.
  • St. Louis’ decision to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples will place Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster in a somewhat precarious position as he conducts his Democratic bid for governor, Harris contended. “A case like this makes it harder for him in southern Missouri or outstate Missouri to say ‘I’m a conservative or I share your values.’ ”
  • It’s better for Koster and the Democratic Party to have a divided Republican Party going into 2016. Contested primaries have "hindered Republicans in the last two election cycles," Harris said. He added that donors are now telling candidates they won't contribute to primaries.

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter@jmannies

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter@jrosenbaum

Follow James Harris on Twitter: @jamesmnharris

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.