JEFFERSON CITY—Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter and a deacon at First Baptist Church, Dexter, was nominated by his colleagues to be president pro tem of the Missouri State Senate in a secret ballot vote Nov. 4. He defeated Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, the current Senate majority floor leader, in a manner where the Biblical method of drawing lots was used as a final determiner.
“It’s a new day, because this man has got the reputation as a Southern gentleman,” said Kerry Messer, lobbyist for the Missouri Baptist Convention. “The whole profile changes in the State Legislature right now. Rob Mayer and I have a shared spiritual connection as Baptist deacons and because of our churches being involved in joint missions projects through the Cooperative Program. He is a quiet-spirited, gentle, effective Christian leader.”
His pastor, Steve Easterwood, described Mayer as a great man who is very active in Dexter, a southeast Missouri city of some 7,000 people, and in First Dexter, a church of 550.
“He wasn’t seeking that at all,” Easterwood said. “They approached him. They felt like Rob was a guy who could make things happen, and they approached him about doing that. I love having a man of his stature in that position. It can’t do anything but help the state of Missouri.”
Messer noted that it is a tribute to Mayer’s character that he was able to handle a so-called controversial abortion bill last year and see it become law without alienating his Senate colleagues. An attorney who previously worked as a farmer, broadcaster, and an industrial engineering technician, Mayer has the people skills to get along with a variety of senators and earned high marks for his work last year as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee when many difficult budget cuts had to be made. All of those factors and more made him the consensus candidate to lead the 34-member Senate when it came time to vote on Nov. 4.
“This is what we call God giving you grace in the eyes of your fellow man,” Messer said.
The senators were tied 13-13 several times before they drew lots. The tie was then broken in dramatic fashion. The choice of Mayer at that point and by that means was viewed by some to be supernatural.
“Man was unable to pick the leader of our Senate,” said Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis. “It was the Providential hand of God.”
The Senate is now 26-8 Republican. Tom Dempsey, a Republican senator from St. Charles, is expected to serve under Mayer’s leadership as the new majority floor leader. He, too, was nominated Nov. 4.
By tradition, Engler should have ascended to the top senate post. Certain members of the secular press drew attention to a scenario where it could still happen, referencing 1981, when a non-nominated Senate leader formed a coalition with the minority caucus to take the pro tem position. However, sources told The Pathway that those circumstances were extremely unusual and are highly unlikely to be repeated this time.
Senators typically meet on the first day of the session—in this case, Jan. 5—to vote for their nominee. While the Associated Press reported that “most” of the 26 Republican senators stood with Mayer on Nov. 4, which may have meant as few as 14, a source who was there told The Pathway the number was actually 23. Flipping that number would be a problematic political enterprise.
Hypothetically, if Engler were to try to cobble together the eight Democrat votes plus 10 from the Republican side, one of the large obstacles in his way would be the lack of a secret ballot, sources said. Another political dynamic that would work against such an attempt would be the behind-the-scenes presence of large conservative contributors in Missouri who would frown upon the prospect of a Republican/Democrat ruling coalition in the 2011 Senate, sources said.
The likely end game, sources said, would be for Mayer to win by drawing anywhere from 18-26 votes cast in favor of him (plus any Democrat votes) so that he may be positioned as a leader in the Republican mainstream. This would also be the easiest pathway for Republicans to maintain unity, as opposed to falling into a trap where they would be divided. Lastly, Missouri Baptists will be gathering at Concord Baptist Church on the morning of the Senate president pro tem vote to pray for, among other things, Christian harmony, order, and justice in the Senate. In that context, the Nov. 4 vote for Mayer, which was conducted in accordance with Senate rules that included the Biblical method of drawing lots, is sure to be a prayerful consideration among the citizenry present in the sanctuary that day.
Another Missouri Baptist was nominated for a key leadership position in the House of Representatives. Rep. Shane Schoeller, R-Willard and a member of Second Baptist Church in Springfield, is up for speaker pro tem. Schoeller is a graduate of Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar.
ALLEN PALMERI/associate editor