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Politically Speaking: Cornejo discusses bid for state House majority leader, right to work

State Rep. Robert Cornejo, R-St. Peters
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Radio’s Politically Speaking team of Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome state Rep. Robert Cornejo, R-St. Peters, as their latest podcast guest.

Cornejo, 32, represents parts of St. Charles and Lincoln counties. He grew up in north St. Louis County and graduated from Hazelwood Central High School. He got his law degree from University of Missouri-Columbia; at least eight members of that law class ended up in state government.

First elected to the House in 2012, he’s now among a cadre of younger Republican legislators who are increasingly flexing their political muscles.

In the wake of the political dominoes falling as a result of John Diehl’s resignation as Missouri House speaker, Cornejo recently announced that he’s running for  House majority leader. The last four holders of that leadership post have become House speaker.

The person holding that job controls when legislation hits the House floor, who gets to speak and how long. Cornejo already has two GOP rivals: Caleb Rowden of Columbia and Assistant Majority Leader Mike Cierpiot of Lee’s Summit.

Cornejo’s observations on the podcast included:

  • Diehl’s swift downfall during the last two days of session “threw our (Republican) caucus for a loop,”  as the scandal broke over his sexually charged text messages to a college-age intern.
  •  Diehl’s initial quest to stay on appeared doomed, with some younger House members pressing for the speaker to step down. Cornejo recalled that his wife, a parochial school teacher, told him the morning after the scandal broke that she was being confronted with questions about whether “I’m doing the same thing in Jefferson City,’’ referring to the sexting.
  • Cornejo is proud of the General Assembly’s approval of SB 5, the bill revamping municipal courts. He was sorry that a different bill redefining the allowable circumstances for  police to use of deadly force died during the last week of session.
  • He doesn’t believe that the House has the 109 votes needed to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s soon-to-come veto of the anti-labor bill making Missouri a “right to work’’ state. Cornejo -- the son of a union electrician -- is among the small group of Republicans opposing the bill, seeing it as government interference into business-labor relationships. That said, Cornejo said he would vote to override Nixon’s veto if his vote was needed for House Republicans to reach the 109-vote threshold.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Robert Cornejo on Twitter:@cornejoForMo

Music: "Reptilia" by The Strokes 

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.