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Politically Speaking: Reps. Kendrick and Stevens on the lay of the land for Missouri Democrats

St. Louis Public Radio's Jason Rosenbaum interviewed state Reps. Kip Kendrick and Martha Stevens at KBIA studios in Columbia, Missouri.
Ryan Famuliner I KBIA
St. Louis Public Radio's Jason Rosenbaum interviewed state Reps. Kip Kendrick and Martha Stevens at KBIA studios in Columbia, Missouri.

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum is pleased to welcome state Reps. Kip Kendrick and Martha Stevens to the program.

Rosenbaum recorded the show with the Columbia Democrats at KBIA’s studios on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus. Both lawmakers represent fairly Democratic-leaning districts that take in portions of the city of Columbia.

Kendrick was elected to the Missouri House in 2014, succeeding state Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia. In a somewhat surprising development, Kendrick did not have a Democratic or Republican opponent for his first electoral bid. (You can learn more about Kendrick’s background on his 2015 appearance on the podcast.)

Stevens, though, had a tougher road to get to Jefferson City. The social worker had to defeat then-Boone County Public Administrator Kathy Richards in a Democratic primary in 2016. Despite Richards holding countywide office for close to a decade, Stevens ended up winning by nearly 50 percentage points. Her predecessor in the House, Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Webber, endorsed her candidacy.

Boone County is a traditional Democratic stronghold. But Republicans have done better there in the past few election cycles, winning a majority of the county’s House and Senate seats. Kendrick and Stevens are the only Democrats to represent any part of mid-Missouri in either chamber of the Missouri General Assembly.

Here’s what Kendrick and Stevens said during the show:

  • Kendrick said he’s heartened that Missouri Democratic Party officials are traveling to rural parts of the state. He said Democrats can’t expect to win statewide offices if they’re constantly underperforming in rural Missouri. “We have to have strong turnout in our urban and suburban areas,” he said. “But in rural Missouri, we have to make sure we’re competitive.”
  • Stevens is sponsoring legislation requiring the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services to set up a program giving intravenous drug users clean needles in exchange for used ones. It would also provide education materials and counseling.
  • State Health and Human Services director Randall Williams backed the needle exchange idea late last year. And Republicans like Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, proposed similar bills in the past. “There’s a lot of really great evidence out there that shows that people that utilize them are five times more likely to receive treatment,” Stevens said.
  • Kendrick is proposing a bill that would require politically-active nonprofits to disclose how much money they’ve spent in Missouri political elections. It comes as 501(c)(4)s have spent prolifically in state legislative contests and within ballot initiative elections.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Kip Kendrick on Twitter: @kip_kendrick

Follow Martha Stevens on Twitter: @Martha4MO

Music: “Holy” by American Wrestlers

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