JEFFERSON CITY — Republicans need to win just one of three special elections Tuesday to re-gain a veto-proof majority in the Missouri House in advance of a big showdown with Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon over budget cuts, tax breaks and abortion.
It appears likely that Republicans could take two of those seats, giving them a little extra padding as they attempt to override a large number of Nixon vetoes during a Sept. 10 session. The Republican candidates in those districts are touting their conservative credentials and, in some cases, already pledging to vote to override some of Nixon's most high-profile vetoes.
The special elections will coincide with Tuesday's primaries, where voters will be picking nominees for the November elections. The general elections lead to legislative terms that begin in 2015. But the winners of the three special elections will take office by September as replacements for lawmakers who left before their terms were done.
Special elections are occurring in the 67th District in St. Louis County, where Democrat Steve Webb resigned while facing criminal charges; the 120th District in east-central Missouri, vacated when Republican Jason Smith won election last year to Congress; and the 151st District in southeast Missouri, where Republican Dennis Fowler resigned for a gubernatorial appointment to the state parole board.
House Republicans currently hold a 108-51 majority over Democrats. It takes 109 House votes to override a veto and a similar two-thirds majority in the Senate, which Republicans already possess.
If Republicans win back the two seats they once held, they would have 110 House members — enough to override vetoes without needing any Democratic votes.
Scott Dieckhaus, the executive director of the House Republican Campaign Committee, said the special elections are "critically important."
"Having a supermajority of solidly Republican votes — it's easier to get those veto overrides and to get legislation passed than it is when we have to rely on reaching across the aisle," Dieckhaus said.
Nixon used his line-item veto power to strike 136 specific sections from the state budget that took effect July 1, asserting that the state lacked enough money to pay for it all. Lawmakers also will consider whether to override Nixon's vetoes of 32 bills, including ones granting tax breaks for restaurants, fitness centers, electric companies and computer data centers that Nixon contends could bust a multimillion-dollar hole in the budget.
Also vetoed were high-profile bills expanding Missouri's one-day abortion waiting period to 72 hours and allowing specially trained teachers to carry guns in the classroom.
Republican candidate Shawn Sisco, a mobile home park owner from Rolla, said he would vote to override Nixon's vetoes on all of those measures. He said the business tax breaks ultimately are good for consumers, armed teachers could deter potential school shooters and a longer waiting period could lead more women to opt against abortions.
Republican candidate Tila Hubrecht, a nurse from Dexter, said she also would vote to override Nixon's veto of the abortion legislation. Hubrecht said she hasn't had time to study the gun and tax-break bills, but she added: "I'm very conservative."
Campaign finance reports show Hubrecht and Sisco with cash advantages over their Democratic challengers.
Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Roy Temple acknowledged that "we have not really made a big push" in the special elections, although Democrat Alan Green is expected to win the vacant St. Louis-area seat.
"In a world of limited resources, you have to focus where you think you can make the most difference," Temple said. "The opportunities are better for us in the fall then they would be trying to invest heavily in those special elections."
If Republicans re-gain their two-thirds majorities for 2014, Democrats are hoping that a few victories in the November elections can reduce the GOP threshold below that mark when the next regular session convenes in 2015.