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.