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Politically Speaking: Sen. Munzlinger talks about roads, GOP revolution in northeast Missouri

Sen. Brian Munzlinger
Marshall Griffin I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies are pleased to welcome Sen. Brian Munzlinger.

Munzlinger is a Republican from Williamstown, an unincorporated community in Lewis County in northeast Missouri. He represents a mammoth district that includes Adair, Chariton, Clark, Knox, Lewis, Linn, Macon, Marion, Pike, Schuyler, Scotland, Shelby, Ralls, and Randolph counties.

In some ways, Munzlinger was at the forefront of a political revolution in traditionally Democratic northeast Missouri. He won election to the Missouri House in 2002, a year when that district began to go Republican for the first time in years. After serving eight years in the House, Munzlinger won a landslide victory in 2010 over incumbent Sen. Wes Shoemyer, D-Monroe County.

Munzlinger’s 2010 victory showcased the impending collapse of Democratic fortunes in northeast Missouri. In 2006, Shoemyer won majorities over his Republican opponent in Audrain, Clark, Knox, Lewis, Monroe, Pike, Ralls, Schuyler, Scotland Shelby counties.Munzlinger won all of those counties four years later, with the exception of Monroe. And after redistricting made his Senate district more Republican, Democrats didn’t even bother to field an opponent in Munzlinger’s bid for re-election in 2014.

The GOP domination of northeast Missouri came full circle this election cycle when President-elect Donald Trump took more than 70 percent of the vote in previously Democratic counties. It may be why Munzlinger was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat when he arrived at the Senate Republican caucus meeting shortly after the Nov. 8 election.

Munzlinger has been the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee since entering the Senate in 2011. He will leave office after 2018, becoming one of the few legislators to reach the 16-year term limit in the Missouri House and Missouri Senate.

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

  • Munzlinger links the decline of Democratic fortunes in northeast Missouri to increasing regulations around agriculture. He also says the socially conservative tilt of the region also played a role in the political metamorphosis.
  • Even though he didn’t receive the support of agricultural commodity groups, Munzlinger says Gov.-elect Eric Greitens won over lots of rural voters by showing up in outstate Missouri and holding well-attended events there. “At the time the endorsements were made, Greitens was an unknown commodity basically in a lot of the ag groups,” he said. “I always say shaking hands and looking them in the eye is one of the most important things you can do.”
  • Like other legislators, Munzlinger expects “right to work” to be quickly passed when the Missouri General Assembly reconvenes in January. Political figures from both parties expected the policy to become law if Greitens was elected governor.
  • Munzlinger also says lawmakers will try to figure out a way to boost transportation spending. One possible avenue is boosting the state’s gas tax, which is among the lowest in the country. “And we really need to do something,” he said. “Our farm to market roads are getting very bad. I’ll just put it that way. They’re deplorable, maybe.”

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Brian Munzlinger on Twitter: @BrianForSenate

Music: “Cloud Shadow on the Mountain” by Wolf Parade

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.