JEFFERSON CITY — Longtime political strategist Roy Temple was elected chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party on Saturday and immediately set an aggressive tone by denouncing "the really bizarre agendas" of Republican state legislators.
Democrats hold five of Missouri's six executive offices but are outnumbered in the Missouri House and Senate by a 2-to-1 margin. Temple's top mission will be to put a dent in those GOP supermajorities during the 2014 elections, which he said starts now by amplifying the Democratic criticism of Republican legislative priorities.
"Our opponents — the Missouri Republican Party — have lost their way," Temple told fellow Democrats after being elected unanimously. "Missourians deserve better than they're getting from the current elected officials in the Missouri Republican Party. They have really bizarre agendas."
Temple takes over for Mike Sanders, who is stepping down after less than two years. Sanders is the Jackson County executive but is considered a potential statewide candidate in the future. He said in an interview Saturday that he is focused on winning re-election next year but added "it would be hard not to take a serious look" at a bid for attorney general in 2016.
Temple, 49, served as chief of staff and campaign manager for former Gov. Mel Carnahan and U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan. He also managed a campaign for former Gov. Bob Holden, served as executive director of the Missouri Democratic Party and led U.S. Sen. John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign in Minnesota before moving to Washington as a political consultant.
He now lives in the Kansas City suburb of Lee's Summit, where he is a founding partner of consulting firm Groundswell Public Strategies.
Temple initially was approached to serve as party chairman by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, whom he campaigned against in 2004 when McCaskill challenged Holden for governor. McCaskill defeated Holden in a primary but lost the general election.
Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, praised Temple on Saturday for having "strategic vision," a "broad understanding of the entire state" and experience with campaigning and policy at all levels of government. Democratic State Treasurer Clint Zweifel spoke highly of Temple's "tenacity."
Temple jabbed at Republicans for passing bills popular among the more conservative party members, including measures limiting foreign laws from being used in Missouri courts and banning local policies based on the United Nations Agenda 21 agreement on sustainable development. He also denounced an income tax cut passed by the GOP-led legislature as benefiting the few at the expense of many middle-class families and public education.
All three measures were among 29 bills vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and could be considered for veto overrides when legislators reconvene Sept. 11.
Missouri Republican Party spokesman Matt Wills said he welcomes the potential of a more aggressive public policy debate with Temple at the Democratic Party's helm.
"I'm looking forward to this back and forth with him," Wills said.