Missouri Senate’s Conservative Caucus disbands, calls for unity with GOP leadership

Jill Toyoshiba/jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com
·3 min read

The hard-right Missouri Senate Conservative Caucus on Monday announced it would disband after two years of contentious battles with GOP leadership.

In a news release signed by the five remaining members of the conservative faction, the group called for peace among senators in the Missouri Republican Party.

“It is time for the Republican Caucus to go fully on offense,” the release said. “As such, we believe the time has come to seek unity within a single majority caucus in the Missouri Senate chamber under exclusively the Republican banner.”

The announcement comes as the group was expected to grow in numbers next session after four key wins in this month’s Republican primaries. It indicates that the hard-right faction believes it has enough members and support to merge with GOP leadership in the Senate.

“Our hope is that, with a mandate from Republicans that voted in this most recent primary, our Republican colleagues are ready to renew focus on passing conservative Republican policies with the supermajorities in place in Jefferson City,” the release said.

Republican candidates endorsed by the hard-right faction that won their respective primaries were state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, an Arnold Republican, state Rep. Nick Schroer, an O’Fallon Republican, Joplin political newcomer Jill Carter and Washington restaurant owner Ben Brown.

Monday’s announcement was signed by Conservative Caucus members state Sen. Bill Eigel of Weldon Springs, Rick Brattin of Harrisonville, Denny Hoskins of Warrensburg, Andrew Koenig of Manchester and Mike Moon of Ash Grove.

Sparring between the Conservative Caucus and the more moderate GOP leadership had ground the upper chamber to a halt for the better part of two years. Last session, floor debates were replaced by filibusters and personal attacks that doomed many of the GOP’s policy goals.

The hard-right faction was largely spearheaded by Sen. Bob Onder, a Lake St. Louis Republican who gave up his seat this year because of term limits. The group made it their win-at-all-costs mission to strictly enforce conservative legislation. They crafted bills around hard-line buzzwords like Critical Race Theory — a college and law school-level concept that examines the role of institutions in perpetuating racism that is not widely taught in Missouri’s K-12 system — and bans on transgender student athletes.

The chaotic infighting among Republicans last session resulted in one of the lowest number of bills passed in recent memory. The state legislature, excluding the state budget and non-binding resolutions, passed only 44 policy measures last session — just 13 more than 2020 when COVID-19 shut the government down for six weeks.

Prior to Monday’s announcement, several Republican state senators indicated to The Star that there may be room for negotiations between the Conservative Caucus and GOP leadership in the upcoming session.

“I’ve talked to several of the new people coming in and I really think that they’re going to be a very positive group,” said Sen. Mike Cierpiot, a Lee’s Summit Republican who’s typically aligned with GOP leadership. “I’m not saying they’ll walk in lockstep with leadership...I’m just asking them to be serious and do things in a serious manner and in ways that don’t damage the Senate.”