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Politically Speaking: Keaveny Lays Out State Senate Agenda, Criticizes Governor

Rebecca Smith, St. Louis Public Radio

After a Thanksgiving hiatus, the Politically Speaking podcast team is back in the saddle. And this week, we welcome state Sen. Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, who will be the new Senate minority leader when the General Assembly goes back into session in January. 

Keaveny – a lawyer and the 28th Ward Democratic committeeman -- also chairs the Senate’s Democratic campaign arm. He has been in the Missouri Senate since late 2009, when he won a special election to fill an unexpired term. He won re-election on Nov. 4.

With his low-key personality, Keaveny is respected by members of both parties. A realist, he notes that Republicans hold a huge 25-9 edge in the state Senate.

“My personality is the ‘fit’ for the job right now,’’ the senator said of his new leadership post.  “If we take on an incendiary attitude, we’re going to lose every fight.”

That said, Keaveny can be blunt.  On the podcast, he was critical of Gov. Jay Nixon’s handling of the unrest in Ferguson since the police shooting Aug. 9.

In particular, Keaveny said many Democrats are upset that National Guard troops apparently weren’t deployed extensively enough on the night of Nov. 24, right after St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced that a grand jury had declined to indict the police officer, Darren Wilson, who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Credit Rebecca Smith, St. Louis Public Radio

On the podcast, Keaveny also said:

  • Bills related to the Ferguson unrest will be a top Democratic priority, although he’s unsure what the GOP leadership will support. Keaveny backs measuresto helping low-income areas attract more jobs and to improve public education in troubled schools.
  • He supports increasing the state’s tobacco tax, now the lowest in the country, and predicts that many legislators in both parties also will support the idea. Keaveny said the tobacco industry also appears to be ready to accept some increase.
  • He is proud of what the Democratic Party stands for and blasts some fellow Democrats who he says have hurt the party with the public by failing to defend its principles.

“We need to emphasize what we stand for,” he said. “Some of our officeholders are running away from the president. The stock market is at an all-time high, unemployment is low, and gasoline below $3 a gallon. Yet we let the majority party control the message and we cave into it.”
Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter@csmcdaniel

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter@jmannies

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter@jrosenbaum

Follow Joe Keaveny on Twitter: @joekeaveny

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