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Politically Speaking: Sen. Schaefer On Budgets, Ferguson Unrest & AG Run

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia
Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio

This week’s edition of Politically Speaking uses the magical power of radio to speak with Sen. Kurt Schaefer from his office in Jefferson City. 

The Columbia Republican chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, which makes him one of the most influential figures in the budget-crafting process. He’s also chairing a special committee looking into Gov. Jay Nixon’s performance during the unrest in Ferguson.

Born in the St. Louis area, Schaefer graduated from Parkway West High School. He attended the University of Missouri-Columbia. After obtaining a law degree at the University of Vermont, Schaefer returned to the "Quality City" and worked for four years in the attorney general’s office. He also was the deputy director of the Department of Natural Resources.

Schaefer now is part of the law firm of Lathrop & Gage.

As a first-time candidate, Schaefer pulled off an upset in 2008 when he defeated incumbent state Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia. Four years later, he became the first Republican in modern history to get re-elected to a Senate district that includes Boone County after besting state state Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia.

Schaefer, who will leave the Senate after 2016 due to term limits, announced in 2013 that he’s running for attorney general. He’s currently the only announced Republican candidate; two Democrats – state Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, and St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman – are running for the job.

During the show, Schaefer said:

  • He’s critical of Nixon’s proposed 2016 budget and predicts it’s a non-starter in the General Assembly. “I don’t think the budget the governor presented to us is a realistic budget," Schaefer said. He accused the governor of engaging in “budget by hostage’’ because Nixon is hinging some spending on legislators' agreement to expand Medicaid. Schaefer opposes any expansion.
  • The Joint Committee on Government Accountability, which Schaefer heads, will focus on the absence of the National Guard in Ferguson and elsewhere when looting and fires erupted on Nov. 24 after the announcement of the grand jury's decision in the Darren Wilson case. Schaefer asked, "Where was the law enforcement?"
  • He plans to highlight his experience in the attorney general’s office as he campaigns for the job. Schaefer says he will emphasize that the attorney general’s prime task, in his view, is “to protect individual rights’’ of Missourians– not just against unscrupulous businesses, but also against what he views as unfair actions by the federal government.

Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter: @csmcdaniel

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Kurt Schaefer on Twitter:@kurtuschaefer

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.