(The Center Square) – Republicans criticized fellow Missouri GOP members throughout Jefferson City on Tuesday.
The day started with Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a candidate for his party’s nomination for governor, saying Republican Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick’s report on his office contains “inaccurate, false allegations.”
Hours later, Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, acted against the following Republican members of the Freedom Caucus:
Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, removed from chairmanship of the Select Committee on the Protection of Missouri Assets from Foreign Adversaries and the vice chairmanships of the Committee on Education and Workforce Development and the Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs, and Pensions;Sen Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, and a candidate for his party’s nomination for governor, removed from chairmanship of the Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs, and Pensions;Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, and a candidate for secretary of state, removed as chairman of the Committee on Economic Development and Tax Policy and the Appropriations Committee;Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-St. Louis, and a candidate for treasurer, removed as chairman of the Committee on Education and Workforce Development.
“The beginning of the 2024 legislative session in the Senate has been nothing short of an embarrassment,” Rowden posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “A chamber designed to be occupied with civil, principled statesmen and women has been overtaken by a small group of swamp creatures who, all too often, remind me more of my children than my colleagues.”
Sen. John Rizzo, D-Independence, and minority leader, said the changes concealed GOP negligence.
“The Republicans’ fighting is masking their failures, as they are failing to address the issues Missourians truly care about,” Rizzo said in a statement.
On Monday, Fitzpatrick released an audit of Ashcroft’s office and gave its overall performance a rating of “fair,” meaning the office needs to improve operations in several areas. It received a rating of “good” during the last audit.
Fitzpatrick’s report stated Ashcroft’s office refused to provide information on implementation of a new law to perform cyber security reviews of the state’s 116 local election authorities. The report also criticized Ashcroft’s decision to leave the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) and said it will cause local governments to have less information to identify and correct voter records.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Ashcroft said the new Missouri law on cyber security wasn’t fully enacted and there were limits to his office’s ability to review local election authorities. He also criticized ERIC and said 18 of its 24 state members are led by Democrats.
“ERIC was not doing the job that it claimed it would do for the people of Missouri and I refused to continue to spend taxpayer funds on something that wasn’t doing what it should for the people of the state,” Ashcroft said.
However, Fitzpatrick said the move left Ashcroft’s office without sufficient voter verification services.
“I can respect why Secretary Ashcroft felt it was necessary to end the relationship with ERIC, but that doesn’t negate the responsibility to have a plan to replace that data so the office has a reliable way to ensure we don’t have dead voters registered in Missouri as we enter a major election year,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement.