Republican State Representative Caleb Rowden is serving a second term in the Missouri House for District 44 and is running for the state senate seat in District 19, previously held by State Senator Kurt Schaefer. Rowden’s platform focuses on economic development, low taxes, government accountability and strengthening Missouri’s public education system.
The University of Missouri and public K-12 education serve as the centerpiece of Rowden’s campaign.
“We’re on obviously on the other side of the hunger strike, and the football thing, and grad students, and all these things that obviously caused some tension,” Rowden said.
The Republican state representative was vocal against budget cuts to the university earlier this year.
“All of the reasons why the state legislature was more than willing to fund the University of Missouri in the past, those things are still going on, and I think in some cases they've got even better,” he said.
He says he hopes to help MU grow into a national leader, even with remaining tension over last year’s student protests.
“I think the senator has to be willing to tell a story has to be willing to push back against either party that tries to downplay the good that's coming out of the University of Missouri,” Rowden added.
Rowden said he can be more effective in this role than democratic opponent and State Representative Stephen Webber.
“I think there's a difference between what I would be able to accomplish as the
senator up for the University Missouri and and what my friend Stephen would be
able to. And that's just a product of the letter behind his name as much as anything,” Rowden said.
Rowden also said his track record in the Missouri House is another difference that will make him more effective than Webber in the senate.
“I’ve been there for four years and have what I think is a significant record of accomplishments. Whereas, Stephen’s been there eight years and never passed a bill,” he said.
Webber has been a co-sponsored on bills that have passed, but has never been an individual sponsor.
Funding a public education and university system is expensive, but Rowden said keeping taxes low doesn’t interfere with that goal.
“I think the idea that that you know letting Missourians have more of their money and put more money back in their pockets and not being able to fund you know such an important entity like the university - those two things aren't as in strict of conflict as I think are a lot of folks in the left would want to think that they are,” he said.
As chairman of the house economic development committee, Rowden said small businesses are a priority in his tax plan.
“[The economic development committee] has been looking at trying to find ways to make sure that if regulations are in place, they're doing what they're supposed to do. And if it's causing some sort of undue burden on small business, then we get rid of it,” he said.
Another major priority for Rowden is improving roads and bridges in Missouri. He said this is an important aspect of the state’s economic success, even if it means finding a way to raise more revenue. He would raise more money by through either tolls or taxes.
In addition to road infrastructure, one problem facing Missouri is access to health insurance. The US Census Bureau reported in September that almost ten percent of Missourians were uninsured in 2015.
Missouri is one of 19 states that has not expanded Medicaid. Rowden said he isn’t opposed to discussing expansion, but said a larger Medicaid system could put too much pressure on the state’s budget.
“I think we have to find a way to do it responsibly and we have to find a way to do it that in a way that doesn't throw a balanced budget completely out of whack and do something unconstitutional, that ends up doing more harm than good.
Rowden added that future conversations about Medicaid in Missouri will rely on the results of the upcoming presidential election.
According to a Missouri Times poll, Rowden trails Webber by a few points for the District 19 State senate seat.