JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Forced out of the state Senate by term limits, a Missouri lawmaker is trying to buck the natural political current and stay in the Capitol by returning to where his legislative career started -- the House.
The move is a little counterintuitive: less influence, reduced prestige and smaller offices. Nonetheless, several state senators across the country have trod the same path, with term-limited senators from Montana to Maine campaigning for state House seats during the past two decades. Many have succeeded and continued their legislative work in the so-called "lower chamber" in the face of term limit policies that block officials from remaining in the same office for long.
Missouri Sen. Kevin Engler, who is completing his second term, is campaigning to become the state's first sitting senator in recent times to cross the Rotunda and start anew in the House. Another term-limited state senator currently is serving in the House after sitting out a few years.
A Republican from a largely rural district south of St. Louis, Engler served as Senate majority leader but lost a bid for the chamber's top post when lots had to be drawn during a sharply divided caucus meeting. Now blocked by term limits from ever running for the Senate but eager to continue public service, Engler hopes to secure a spot in the House where he would be eligible for another six years after serving one term nearly a decade ago.
Engler, who lives in Farmington, said his experience with the legislative process and in negotiating complex bills would be a boost, noting an elder statesman of sorts could be useful in a chamber where nearly half the members now have less than a full term of legislative experience.
In the past, "you'd have a House member there for a long time. Now as soon as an opportunity arises, they don't even serve the eight years. If a county commission spot comes up, if a Senate spot (is available) they can't wait," Engler said. He added: "Everybody is kind of looking for some place else to go, and I'm not looking for any place else to go."