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Politically Speaking: Kendrick seeks to transform 'permissive culture' within the Missouri Capitol

State Rep. Kip Kendrick
Nathan Lawrence | KBIA | File photo

St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum is flying solo, so to speak, for this week’s edition of Politically Speaking. He’s welcoming state Rep. Kip Kendrick to show to talk about changing legislative policies toward interns, the upcoming veto session and northeast Missouri politics.

The Columbia Democrat worked in the higher education and social services sphere before entering the world of electoral politics last year. He was the only candidate to file in the 45th District House seat, which takes in most of the University of Missouri-Columbia. That district is heavily Democratic, so winning that primary was tantamount to election.

After the resignations of House Speaker John Diehl and Sen. Paul LeVota, Kendrick joined a task force aimed at overhauling the Missouri House’s internship protocols. One of the specific ideas Kendrick put forward was a ban on any romantic relationships between a lawmakers and either an intern or a subordinate staff member.

Kendrick is a native of Monroe City, Mo., the population center of Monroe County. That county is historically one of the most Democratic in the state, but has tended to vote more Republican in national and state legislative contests. Kendrick was a guest speaker at the Monroe County Democratic Club last month, which drew more than 100 people from around northeast Missouri.

Here’s what Kendrick had to say during the show:

  • Kendrick was somewhat surprised that he didn’t have to face a Democratic primary opponent in 2014. But he still knocked on doors and had listening sessions with people within the district.
  • Northeast Missouri used to be a Democratic stronghold – and even had a majority Democratic delegation to the Missouri General Assembly up to 2010. But since that part of the state has a completely Republican delegation, Kendrick says Democrats need to improve their messaging – and put more effort and resources into winning legislative seats back.
  • As of Aug. 31, the “work group” aimed at shoring up internship policies hadn’t actually met. But despite what he called a “frustrating” process, Kendrick says he’s not “using that as an excuse to nothing.” “And the issue is the abuse of power – pure and simple,” Kendrick said. “It’s about the power differential that exists between elected officials and staff and interns underneath those elected officials.”
  • Kendrick cited a number of factors in which a culture of sexual harassment persists. That includes the accessibility of alcohol and the isolated location of Jefferson City, as well as a “permissive culture” and “the egos and the newfound power that comes from being in an elected position.”
  • He’s concerned that “onus for change” will be placed on the interns and the higher education institutions – as opposed to lawmakers. “I believe this has happened for far too long,” he said. “There’s been I guess somewhat of an acceptance, because we’ve never really made attempts in the past to change this behavior.”

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Kip Kendrick on Twitter: @kipk45

Music: “I Lose Myself” by June

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.