JEFFERSON CITY — House Democrats elected Columbia Rep. Jeff Harris as their new floor leader in a closed-door caucus Friday.
The second-term legislator will face the challenge of leading the Democrats in a chamber where they are outnumbered by Republicans 97-66.
Harris is the second Columbia Democrat elected to party office this week. On Thursday, newly elected state Sen. Chuck Graham was selected as the Democrat’s assistant floor leader in the Senate.
Graham will assist the Senate’s new minority floor leader, Sen. Maida Coleman of St. Louis. At a press conference Thursday, Coleman said the upcoming term would not be marked by the partisan wrangling that bogged down the past session.
Coleman’s message of cooperation matched with the replacement of Floor Leader Rick Johnson with Harris suggests the Democrats may be seeking a less confrontational tack.
“I declined the nomination and nominated Jeff,” Johnson said. “I spent a lot of time away from my family these last two years and I’m going to try to spend more time with them.”
Along with former Sen. Ken Jacob, another Columbia Democrat who served as the party’s floor leader in the Senate this past session, Johnson waged numerous battles against the Republican majority on the floor of both chambers of the General Assembly.
“The important thing is to look to the future and see how we can work to make the state a better place both working with Democrats and working with the other side of the aisle,” Harris said.