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Politically Speaking: Rodney Hubbard on St. Louis' combative politics — and Paul McKee's critics

Rodney Hubbard
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On this week’s episode of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome former state Rep. Rodney Hubbard.

After serving in the Missouri House in the 2000s, Hubbard now works as a lobbyist and consultant. He's also a member of one of the region's most politically prominent families.

His clients include the city of St. Louis, AmerenUE and the Carpenters’ District Council of Greater St. Louis. He’s also done work in the past for Paul McKee, the controversial developer behind the Northside Regeneration project.

The St. Louis Democrat served in the Missouri House from 2003 to the beginning of 2009. During his tenure, he gained a reputation for pragmatism — and for clashing with his fellow Democrats over his support for “school choice.”

In what was considered a major upset at the time, Hubbard lost a close state Senate race in 2008 to Robin Wright-Jones. The two are now on good terms, especially since Hubbard’s son and Wright-Jones’ grandson attend the same high school.

Hubbard’s family has been active in St. Louis politics for years. His mother, state Rep. Penny Hubbard, D-St. Louis, has served in the Missouri House for three terms. His sister is St Louis Alderwoman Tammika Hubbard, who’s represented the 5th Ward since 2011. And his wife, Shameem Hubbard, is the 26th Ward committeewoman.

Rodney Hubbard’s loss to Wright-Jones in 2008 marks the only time the Hubbard family has lost an election.

Here’s what Hubbard had to say:

  • He acknowledged he often has clashed with African-American officials over education policy because public education is a “sacred cow” to many people in the black community. “You have a lot of people in your family that worked in the St. Louis Public School system, and that was the only way for them to receive gainful employment,” he said.
  • State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, may have trouble dislodging U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay from office next year, should she choose to make an attempt. Hubbard noted that former U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, had built up strong name recognition over the years — and was still soundly defeated by Clay in their nasty 2012 primary. “It’s extremely hard to go up against a sitting incumbent,” Hubbard said.
  • Hubbard wouldn’t mind if the General Assembly finally approved restrictions on the types of gifts that lobbyists can give legislators. He said many lobbyists, and their clients, don’t like dealing with the copious paperwork needed to show how they divvy up legislative freebies.
  • Voting to repeal campaign finance limits was one the worst votes of Hubbard's legislative career. But he says that he faced more of a backlash for his decision than his white Democratic counterparts.  
  • Hubbard was extremely critical of Aldermen Chris Carter, D-27th Ward, and Antonio French, D-21st Ward, for blasting McKee's north city development project. He said both aldermen should focus on improving problems in their own wards before attacking McKee.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Rodney Hubbard on Twitter: @rodneyrhubbard

Music: “Hole in the Earth” by Deftones

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.