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Politically Speaking: Jason Crowell on how he left his mark through legislative service

Jason Crowell
File photo I Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On this episode of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio reporters Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome former state Sen. Jason Crowell to the show for the first time.

In the late 2000s, the Cape Girardeau Republican emerged as one of the most impactful — and, to some, controversial — lawmakers in the Missouri General Assembly. He often used the power of his personality and mastery of Senate procedure to steer legislation in his desired direction.

Before he was elected to the Missouri House in 2000, Crowell worked in all three branches of Missouri government. He was an aide in then-Attorney General Jay Nixon’s office, a legal intern for now-U.S. District Judge Ronnie White and an intern for then-Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder. After the GOP captured the House majority in 2002, Crowell was picked to be the chamber’s majority leader — giving him control over the flow of legislation.

After a somewhat low-key first term in the Missouri Senate, Crowell became a major player in debates over congressional redistricting, energy policy and tax credits. During that second term, he was key in derailing a special session in 2011 that would have provided tax incentives to develop a cargo hub at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. And he handled some highly significant bills – including a major overhaul of the state’s pension system.

Crowell’s moves throughout the early 2010s gained him some enemies – and some fans, such as former Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue. His maneuvers also stoked speculation about his political future – especially since he was barred from running again for the Senate due to term limits. After mounting an unsuccessful bid to convince a GOP committee to give the nomination to the 8th Congressional District seat, Crowell says he’s content to vie for “husband of the year.”  

During the show, Crowell said:

  • He learned a lot from working with White and within Nixon's office. Even though both are prominent Democrats, Crowell credits that experience with preparing him for legislative service.
  • Former House Speaker Catherine Hanaway was a “heck of a leader” in the Missouri House. Even though he disagreed with her on public funding for stadiums, Crowell said the gubernatorial hopeful always sees things “three-dimensionally.”
  • While he’s unsure whether he regrets voting to repeal campaign finance limits in 2008, he says unlimited political contributions have vastly changed how candidates interact with the general public. When he first ran for office, he had to shake hundreds of hands to raise $50,000 – as opposed to a single donation.
  • He became committed to curtailing state tax credits after he helped craft a bill that pared down Medicaid coverage. Even though he wasn’t able to stamp out popular incentives such as the historic preservation tax credit completely, he contends he changed the conversation in Jefferson City.
  • He said Republicans have been able to gain a foothold in state legislatures because of a backlash against President Barack Obama. The momentum may turn around when Obama leaves office – especially if Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton can cut into rural territory.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Jason Crowell on Twitter: @JasonGCrowell … or mail him a letter, since he’s not that active on social media.

Music: “You Really Got Me” by Sanjaya Malakar

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.