Citizen Legislator Is On the Move

State Sen. Jane Cunningham seems ready to leave town to stay in office.

It is interesting how a number of West County politicians tell anyone who has time to listen how they are “citizen legislators.” They claim they are the average Joe running for office to help their fellow citizens. James Madison defined citizen legislators as those who come from the community for “a short period in office.”

Madison was basically referring to people with professions who take leave to serve in office for a short time and return to their profession.

Term limits in Missouri create a modified citizen legislature. But there are some that combine eight years as a state rep plus two terms as a state senator into a 16-year fulltime career, even with these term limits in place.  

Elected officials like U.S. Rep. Todd Akins liked to claim at one time or another how he was a citizen legislator. Akin used to dress up in Colonial period costumes and made speeches about citizen legislators.

Todd had a couple of professions. He has an engineering degree and a divinity degree. He used his engineering background and had jobs at IBM and the old Laclede Steel Company which was liquidated in 2002 after a year in bankruptcy.

However, since 1988 Akin has been a politician, first serving twelve years in the Missouri House of Representatives and the past 11 years as a U.S. congressman. He has announced he is in the race for the U.S. Senate in 2012.

In other words, for the largest portion of his adult life Akin has been a full-time politician.

Jane Cunningham has also portrayed herself as one of our neighbors who wants to be our voice in Jefferson City. Jane served eight years in the Missouri House of Representatives, and now is in the last year of a four-year team in the Missouri Senate.

On November 30 when a court-approved redistricting of Missouri Senate Districts put Jane’s 7th Senate District into Lincoln County, her residence becomes part of the 24th District served by state Sen. John Lamping (in the first year of a four-year term.)

Cunningham told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she anticipated the redistricting, has been attending city council meetings in Wildwood, and plans to move to Wildwood and run for the state Senate in the new 27th District that covers the north half of Jefferson County, Eureka and Wildwood.

Cunningham is 65, and will have spent 12 years at the Missouri Statehouse. In the last two years, Jane has raised over $300,000 in campaign money.

Apparently, she really wasn’t much of a neighbor to us here, because she is happy to move out of the neighborhood and run for office somewhere else to stay in the game. In other words, Jane could be described as a carpetbagger. One has to think Jane likes being a state senator, more than being our neighbor—our citizen legislator.

Cunningham is willing to put her current home up for sale. Zillow.com estimates Cunningham’s home has lost 25 percent of its value since 2007, much like the rest of us.

Perhaps Jane might remember the citizen legislator, finish her current term and return to being a citizen, the person James Madison proudly wrote about.


Jane Durrell December 29, 2011 at 05:05 PM
Redistricting is part of the process that comes with redistirbution of population, and is in theory non-political. Redistricting every ten years is a good and fair law. If an elected official wishes to stay in office, and chooses to move to a new location, the person likely will take the loyalties to the old district with him/her. Moving would not be turning one's back on the old district or abandoning it, but rather taking the perspectives on larger issues to another location. A vote from another district will still be a vote for us on state issues. In this case, this district's views are not much different, if at all, from the ones slightly further west. Jane will continue to vote the same way, taking into account of course all the input from her new constituents. I wish more legislators could stay in office more than 16 years. It takes a long time to become educated to the governing process, and in that time one builds up resistance to lobbyists. I believe we would all be better off if terms were extended to 12 years in each house, and vote the irresponsible officials out as soon as possible. I applaud any official who is willing to move or make any other sacriice to continue to do a job well. Jane Durrell
Dennis Broadbooks December 30, 2011 at 10:20 PM
@John Hoffmann: While your use of the phrase “citizen legislator” has a certain Tea Party ring to it, somehow one doesn’t come away with the impression that’s what you’re attempting to accomplish with your tome here. You insinuate 16 years is too much time for Senator Cunningham to spend in our current “modified citizen legislature” and imply US Congressman Todd Akin has overstayed his welcome. So how long is too long? What’s the “right amount” according to your way of thinking? Do we need brand new legislators every 2-4 years? Is that your idea of a functioning legislative body?
Dennis Broadbooks December 30, 2011 at 10:21 PM
@John Hoffman again: Employing the word “carpetbagger” against Senator Cunningham is more than a little misleading. Did you take the time to study the new MO State Senate districts as opposed to the old to see how they’re now constructed? You stated correctly Senator Cunningham was unfortunately lumped into a new Senate district (24) with fellow GOP freshman State Senator John Lamping. What you failed (deliberately?) to mention in your description of the new 27th Senatorial district is that it also includes a significant portion of the City of Chesterfield and, by the way, the new district boundary line is only THREE blocks from her home. Senator Cunningham will still be representing many of the exact same constituents in the new 27th that she does now in the 7th. Looking at the big picture, with all the facts presented, makes for a bit different picture than you’ve attempted to portray, John. It also makes one wonder whose axe you’re grinding…and for what purpose.
John Hoffmann December 31, 2011 at 02:17 AM
Dennis, I have no axe to grind. Frankly I think Jane should stay home and not sell her house for a loss and then run for the next opening on the Monarch Fire Protection Board. Local politicans can get far more done that affects day to day lifes of their neighbors than the people in Jefferson City. Here is what the Missouri Legislature has not done. 1) They have not raised the lowest cigarette tax in America even a nickel. 2) They have not raised one of the lowest gasoline taxes in the US a penny. 3) Not only have they not made cell phone use and driving or even texting and driving illegal...they have made it impossible to counties and cities to do so. 4) Despite the real danagers of second hand smoke, they have made no effort to ban smoking in public places indoors ANYWHERE, instead they have caved into the casino, beer and liqour and cigarette lobbyists. 5) They have not made new laws that restrict local judges from placing convicted Drunk Drivers on "no record probations." What has Jane done recently...She has tried to elminate child labor laws and passed a law dealing with the use of social media that was immediaely declared unconsititutional. She has also accepted gifts and contributions from the pork industry and voted for a bill that took away basic rights of people in rural Missouri who live near factory hog farm operations from suing for pollution damages.


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