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Politically Speaking: Democrat Peter Merideth looks to navigate a heavily Republican legislature

Peter Merideth
Durrie Bouscaren I St. Louis Public Radio
Once in office, Democrat and attorney Peter Merideth says he hopes to work with like-minded Republicans to solve tricky policy problems.

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Durrie Bouscaren welcome Peter Merideth (and his daughter, Piper) to the program.

Merideth is an attorney who spent most of his childhood and professional life in the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis. He recently won a hard-fought Democratic primary against Ben Murray in the 80th House District. And since winning that primary is tantamount to election, he will almost certainly be entering the Missouri House in 2017.

Merideth attended the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and received his law degree from Washington University in St. Louis. After working at Husch Blackwell for a time, Merideth opened his own practice up in the Shaw neighborhood.

One of the themes of Merideth’s campaign was working with like-minded people in the Republican Party to solve tricky policy problems. He’s especially motivated to find a way forward on Medicaid expansion, which hasn’t gained much traction in the GOP-dominated Missouri General Assembly. He also expressed a great interest in overhauling the state’s policies toward criminal justice.

Here’s some of what Merideth had to say on the show:

  • He started getting involved in politics during college and decided nearly a decade ago that he would run for the state legislature in 2016. “Of course, it was a roller coaster ride going on that my path might change,” he said. “But I ultimately decided to file back in spring of 2015. It seemed that this was the right time to do this and this was the place to start.”
  • He said his race against Murray was “more contentious than I imagined it would be.” He said he and Murray shared similar views on issues, but had differences in approach and professional background.
  • When he enters the legislature next year, Merideth said he’ll be looking for “coalitions” to get things done. “I’m looking for where — even in the Republican Party — can I find allies on various issues,” he said. “Medicaid expansion’s a big one. I’ve already sat down with some folks on the other side of the aisle that I didn’t dream I’d talk agreement with. And they’re ready to move forward on this, even if it’s piecemeal.”
  • Merideth said he’s been passionate about criminal justice issues for a long time. “I came home during the summers and saw my friends that I’d grown up with on my block who were really experiencing a different city than I was,” he said. “It seemed to me the No. 1 reason was skin color. And I found myself resolving interactions between police and my neighbors that looked like they never should have happened. And because I was the young, white guy that walked up, I was able to calm it and say, 'This guy lives here.’”
  • He said the legislature barely scratched the surface on what it can do to foster better relationships between police and African-Americans. Merideth noted the Ferguson Commission provided a host of recommendations that should be considered by the legislature.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Durrie Bouscaren on Twitter: @DurrieB

Follow Peter Merideth on Twitter: @PeterForMO

Music: “My Girls” by Animal Collective

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