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Politically Speaking: Where do Missouri Democrats go from here? Rep. Butler has some ideas.

Rep. Michael Butler, D-St. Louis
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Rep. Michael Butler, D-St. Louis

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome back state Rep. Michael Butler to the program for the second time.

The St. Louis Democrat recently won his third term in the Missouri House without major opposition. He was recently elected to House Democratic leadership, taking on the role of minority caucus chairman.

Butler is a former legislative staffer who was first elected to the House in 2012. He’s won re-election to his district without too much trouble and recently was elected as a Democratic committeeman representing St. Louis’ 6th Ward.

Most of this week's show focuses on what went wrong for Missouri Democrats in last month's general election. The party not only failed to gain significant ground in the Missouri General Assembly, but it  lost races for every statewide office. And because Republican Eric Greitens is about to become governor, Democrats in the legislature lose a lot of influence — primarily because the threshold to pass controversial bills drops dramatically.

Butler contends, in part, that his party's message is not the problem. The issue, he said, is that Democrats aren't present in most of state — even portions of rural Missouri that have been traditionally Democratic. He also pointed to several strategic missteps with some of the party's statewide candidates, including unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial nominee Chris Koster.

Here’s what Butler had to say on the show:

  • While complimenting his political skills, Butler said the fact that Missouri Democrats completely supported Koster had some downsides. "We kind of sold our soul a little bit with Chris Koster," Butler said. "He was a pro-gun ... run-against-Obama type candidate. ... A lot of Democrats felt like they would still support him, because he was going to win and he was going to invest into the party."
  • Butler said a lot of "liberal Democrats were willing to disagree" with Koster on policy issues  and "knew that he wasn't going to veto a lot of bills that [Gov. Jay Nixon] had vetoed. ... And yet, they knew they had to stick with him because they knew he was going to win," he said. 
  • One of the problems, Butler said, is that Missouri Democrats aren't engaging enough with Missourians who live in rural parts of the state. "We're not present. And the Republicans are very much present," he said. "If you visit rural Missouri a lot, you'll find out that many of them haven't talked to a Democrat or a Democratic candidate in over a decade. ... It's not that our message is bad. It's not that our message isn't resonating. Our message isn't even being told."
  • Butler also said that Democratic candidates for down-ballot statewide offices, such as secretary of state or state treasurer, were not as well supported as Koster or U.S. Senate hopeful Jason Kander. "They had a very tough time raising money at a time when more money had been coming into the state than the past eight years."

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter@jmannies

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter@jrosenbaum

Follow Michael Butler on Twitter: @RepMikeButler

Music: "Paranoid" by Kanye West

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.