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19th Missouri Senate District: Caleb Rowden

Party: Republican

Opponent: Judy Baker

Residence: Columbia

Occupation: State senator, owner/CEO of Clarius Interactive

Education: Attended University of Missouri

Previous political experience: Two-term state representative, state senator since 2016.

Family: Wife Aubrey, children Willem, 7, and Adele, 2.

What is your position on Amendment 3, which would roll back parts of the Clean Missouri amendment voters approved in 2018?

So Amendment 3 I think is just designed to give voters another option.

Obviously Clean Missouri passed in 2018. The notion that we are attempting to undo the will of the voters is a flawed notion because the initiative is before the voters and so ultimately they're gonna get the final say. You know, I think that the idea that we're doing it because we're trying to protect the majority, are trying to protect these gerrymandered seats -- No. 1 you can't find gerrymandered districts in the state of Missouri as of now. But secondly I think the idea that, that, that somehow we are attempting to give license to gerrymander is an interesting conversation and one that I think is backwards because Clean Missouri's language actually gives one individual, the demographer, an actual license to gerrymander, because if you look at the language in Clean, it doesn't draw districts based on compactness and contiguous districts it draws it based on partisan fairness, which sounds fantastic.

And it makes a lot of sense to a lot of people, except when you think about a district, for instance, a district in downtown St Louis that in 2012, statistically, Mitt Romney got 0% of the vote in a district in downtown St. Louis, because it's that far to the left. And so how do you make a district like that partisanly fair? You run it all the way up to northeast Missouri or somewhere southwest, southeast or, you got to go somewhere else and so all of a sudden those folks, their representation doesn't live in their community, doesn't look like them, doesn't sound like them, doesn't you know, doesn't do the things and experience the things that they experienced. And so I think the notion that the response, Amendment 3 was largely political, I think is a flawed one. I think we should have ... districts that represent those communities and so we wanted to give the voters another option. They're going to get the final say and and if it passes, great. If not then we'll move forward with the language in 2018 and as the majority leader, if I'm the majority leader going forward, we actually pick the demographer myself and the minority leader and so we've started those conversations and we'll move forward with the process if Amendment 3 fails.

How will Medicaid expansion affect the 19th District?

There's probably some good and probably some not so good. I think the idea of more people in Mid-Missouri having access to affordable coverage, especially folks within that income gap 100% to 133% of federal poverty, that's a good thing. And there's no question about that and that's an idea that if done the right way something that I could support.

The negative is going to be the potential financial ramifications for the University of Missouri, K-12 education, et cetera. So, proponents even the people who pushed a Medicaid expansion on the ballot, don't refute the fact that in the short term, it is going to cost the state money. It's 10% of the full dollar figure and so, you know, I think a conservative estimate is 100 million a year for the first few years. I think a probably more realistic one could be 150 to 250 (million) and so if you think about a half a billion to a billion over the course of five years out of general revenue, this isn't money that's got a revenue stream, this is money coming out of the general revenue coffers. Literally, the first place it comes from is the University of Missouri and higher education,.

Higher education has been the guinea pig of budget cuts for a decade under Democrat governors and Republican governors and something that I've hated as somebody who's represented this area. But if you're going to cut a half a billion or if you're going to cut a billion out of general revenue for other purposes, in this particular case Medicaid expansion, it's going to come from Mizzou. It has to, there's no other functional way other than raising taxes that Mizzou doesn't suffer as a result and so that's the conundrum. My position is, I'm just willing to tell the truth about the full ramifications and Medicaid expansion. I think folks on the other side, you know, painted a rosy picture but it was a picture that was half complete.

The voters passed it, we'll see what happens, you know with the budget with the COVID realities and what our budget picture looks like in (fiscal year) '21 and '22. Hopefully, we can stand in the way of significant budget cuts but I would certainly say that if you want to stand in the way you need to have somebody who has some influence to be able to do that in a functional way and having the majority leader in the Senate from Columbia, certainly goes a long way to do that.

Has the state done enough to fight COVID-19?

It's a loaded question and one that I'm not sure we have all of the information to have the full answer for yet.

I said very early on in the process. I didn't want to be the guy who was always Monday morning quarterbacking these decisions because the biggest issue related to COVID in the initial window was this fear of the unknown. We had no clue what this was we had no clue how it was impacting people, how it's communicated from one place to the other, who potentially had more issues than others. So there's all these unknowns.

We're beginning to know more. We are aware of, generally speaking, hospitalizations and deaths that come from this and the folks that are impacted more than others. And so as we begin to know more, I think we can look back, and we can say "okay this is where we made good decisions. this is where we made poor decisions, where we didn't do enough, where we did too much."

As we sit here today, I think the state's response has been adequate. I don't think we got everything right but I also don't know that you can fault people for that because the level of information we had in the moment, was an incomplete data set. And so, it's my hope and you won't see me using COVID or the response to COVID or doing too much or too little. you won't see me politicizing that in this campaign because I don't think we should, because you know it is a public health problem, it is a problem that has impacted so many people economically from a health perspective, you know, kids in schools, you know, depression, that's come from this. There's just a whole host of underlying consequences from all the various components of this that to use this for political purposes is just something that I didn't feel was necessary and so we're gonna keep fighting.

We passed, you know, a huge special session budget supplemental budget to deal with CARES Act money, brought that down to the counties. I've been pushing Boone County specifically a little bit harder to get that money out the door quickly. You know in the moment that we're in right now resources trumps about anything because there's just that need in a whole host of areas. And so we'll keep fighting it, we'll keep making decisions as they come and then you know, come the middle of next year hopefully when this thing's in the rearview mirror and we have a vaccine and we have more information, then we can look back and say, "Hey, you know as a society as a community as a state government, here's what we did well here's what we didn't do well" and then we learn from that to try to figure out and make sure we don't make those same mistakes next time.

The Missouri General Assembly took up legislation to address violent crime this summer and the issue is likely to come up again. What should the General Assembly do to address the problem?

Well, it's a great question and one that you know most of the answers, most of the functional answers, aren't the sexy answers, right?

So this special session, we did some things, dealing with setting up new resources for witnesses and witness protection funds, lifting the residency requirement for officers in the city of St. Louis so St Louis can recruit more folks from a little bit further out of the city. You know, these are things that probably don't grab headlines, people don't put on their pieces when they're running for reelection but there are some functional things that we can do.

You know, I think there's some other pieces of the governor's package that can be helpful, and they didn't get across the finish line but hopefully, we can get them there. You know I think we, the Missouri legislature, has done better than most in seeing the difference between violent offenders and nonviolent offenders so we've done a ton of work in the nonviolence space in criminal justice reform. In my first year in the Senate we passed the Justice Reinvestment Act which treats nonviolent offenders, you know drug offenders and folks who are dealing with addiction. Instead of throwing them in the county jail, provide community solutions that allow us to put fewer people in prison close down prisons in Missouri and then reinvest that money back into the programs that we think work and so we've done all that stuff in Missouri.

There are some people who say that what we're doing now in the violent criminal space is contradictory to that. I don't think that's true. It's just that we've got to be honest about the differences between those two sections of people. I don't think you will find a more compassionate individual and someone who believes in grace and who believes in second chances than me, but you also have to be mindful of the fact that there are people out there who are bad people who have bad motives and who want to bring harm to other people in their communities. And so, knowing the difference between those two people, those two groups of people, being honest about the differences and then treating them differently, as it relates to consequences in state law, I think it's something that we've gotten right but we're gonna have to continue to work in violent crime.

And whatever we can do I think we've got to have an open mind and listen to the folks in those areas. The governor met with the mayors of large cities numerous times over the course of the last year and a lot of these solutions were solutions that came from the cities and so that dialogue needs to continue. And we'll keep fighting.

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ABC 17 News Team

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