Crowell: Gets Praise and Blame

The St. Louis Beacon published a long article on Senator Jason Crowell quoted below.  Senator Crowell will come up against the limits for service at the end of his current term, and several parties has asked if your humble blogger thought he was ready to move on to higher office.  I’ve never met Senator Crowell but have exchanged e-mail, so I have no basis to comment.  The fact that he’s still raising money lends credibility to the claim he’s moving on up.

I was particularly impressed with Senator Crowell’s tactic at the beginning of the 2011 Missouri Special Session to filibuster the ‘call’ of the session.  A friend and newly elected Senator, Brian Nieves, was extremely complimentary of his knowledge of Senate rules and methods.

Here is some of the details from the St. Louis Beacon article:

Sen. Jason Crowell may not be a household name to most Missourians.

But the Republican from Cape Girardeau is getting a lot of credit — and blame -— for what passed and what didn’t make it through the Missouri General Assembly’s meandering seven-week special session, which ended today.

Despite avoiding formal leadership positions in the Senate, during his seven years there Crowell has used the strength of his personality, vigorous advocacy of his positions and strategic legislative alliances to shape major issues in Jefferson City. In helping steer the General Assembly’s upper chamber toward making big changes to popular tax credit programs, Crowell was one of the senators who directed the Senate into a mortal collision with the House during the special session.

Whether it’s building a new power plant in Callaway County, redrawing the state’s congressional districts, altering state worker pensions, changing the state’s presidential primary or reshaping its tax credit programs, Crowell is often at the center of the fight and a key player in moving big bills forward.

He’s also adept at killing bills, even ones that seem to have wide-ranging support.

Stalling legislation is common in the Missouri Senate. But other lawmakers and observers say that Crowell has been especially effective. Even his political opponents concede his skills — developed over years of unlikely mentorships, extensive research and seemingly countless legislative battles.

“I will say that Jason Crowell’s a brilliant young man,” said state Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R-St. Louis County.

But other House members are especially critical of how Crowell — as well as other senators — can use their positions to become the gatekeepers and decision-makers on big bills.

And detractors wonder aloud whether Crowell, 39, has created a Senate that’s constantly the graveyard for high-profile legislation.

“I don’t think it’s positive,” said Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, who also called Crowell the “smartest guy in the Senate.”

“It’s a byproduct of term limits where you have no repercussions if you’re going to be out of there anyway,” Engler said. “So it’s ‘my way or the highway.’ ”

Indeed, Crowell will leave the Senate after 2012. And like many term-limited lawmakers, speculation already abounds about whether he’ll run for higher office. For his part, Crowell said he’s not focused on climbing the political ladder or pleasing potentially helpful interests. And he added, it’s important sometimes for the legislature to slow down to go forward.

“When I sat down with my mom and said, ‘Hey, I want to run for office,’ she said, ‘Just make me one promise — make sure that you can look at yourself in the mirror at the reflection that looks back at you when you stare into the mirror,'” Crowell said. “And you know, that’s what I try to do. I explain everything. Rarely do I say ‘No’. I just say, ‘This is the path to success.'”

The Senate is the place where bills should go to die; unfortunately, calling them legislators makes them think they need to “legislate!”  We’d like to see them remove 5 laws and regulations for each new one they enact!

The “$64 billion question,” Jones said, is why Crowell is doing what he’s doing.

“I have actually asked myself the same thing — what is the endgame? What is the goal? Does he have a higher purpose in this?” Jones said.

Some lawmakers and political observers interviewed by the Beacon agree that coming out against popular tax credit programs, slowing down congressional redistricting and forestalling a massive construction project like Callaway II aren’t exactly ways of moving ahead in Missouri politics. And Crowell, for his part, said he “doesn’t care.”

“It can be Ameren, it can be Lloyd Smith and the Republican Party and [U.S. House Speaker John Boehner] and all the congressional delegates,” Crowell said. “That’s not who I work for. That’s not who sent me to Jeff City.”

Crowell — who told the Southeast Missourian earlier this year that he had made “no concrete decisions” about running for statewide office — said his objections during redistricting “had nothing at all” to do with wanting to run for the 8th Congressional District House seat.

“I have been running from Congress since I turned 20,” Crowell said.

Often, Crowell said, people seeking higher office have to compromise on their principles to get ahead.

“Each and every individual that is elected to office is inevitably put in the position where they have to answer this question: ‘Do you work for the special interests that may help you move up to the higher level?’ ” Crowell said. “You may be just the special interest’s boy in the General Assembly and do everything that you say. And they may very well reward you with a Senate seat, a congressional seat or the governor of the state of Missouri and all the money that comes with it.”

“Do you want to be that person?” Crowell continued. “Or do you want to be the person who was elected by the people that sent you up there, have an honest ongoing dialogue with them and do what you think is right?”

Still, Connor said Crowell may be positioned as an “anti-establishment” figure if the political bug bit in the future.

“He may have a crystal ball. He may have an Ouija board. He may have a Magic 8-Ball,” Connor said. “Maybe his stands on these issues — like tax credits and so on — is the foundation of the future Republican Party and … maybe he is self-interested because he sees where the Republican Party is going to be in five or 10 years.”

In the meantime, Crowell said many of his goals after he’s term-limited out of the Senate are more personal than political. Crowell — who said he let politics “kind of run my life” for past few years — this month married Casey Hertenstein.

“Cape Girardeau’s a town where everyone knows everyone,” said Crowell when asked about how the two met. “The unique thing that happened is we kind of met. She thought I wasn’t completely ugly, thought I wasn’t completely grotesque and I asked her out and she said yes.”

Crowell said he is looking forward to starting a family and figuring out what he “wants to be when he grows up.” As for his lasting legacy as a senator, Crowell said he’s been honored to serve.

“I’ve had 12 years,” Crowell said. “I’m not … some of these other people who think the state of Missouri is going to freaking fall off the map when I’m gone. The state of Missouri made it before, it’s made it in spite of me and it’s going to make it after me.”

About bbollmann
A Missouri Conservative who like to rock... ...especially to the great music of Rush!

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