ST. LOUIS – The election of Joe Biden as president may have given Democrats hope nationally, but in Missouri, the party remains overwhelmed by a much stronger Republican Party.
Outside of St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia, the state is a sea of red. Donald Trump won nearly 57 percent of the vote, while Republican Gov. Mike Parson won re-election with slightly more than that. Republicans won all the other statewide contests and six of the eighth congressional seats. Republicans are overwhelmingly in charge of the state house.
Into this gloomy picture comes St. Louis Recorder of Deeds Michael Butler, the new chair of the Missouri Democratic Party’s central committee. The committee named him in a Zoom meeting on Dec, 12.
Just 34, he is the first African-American to lead the state party. Butler, a Gate District resident, is already traveling around the state in pursuit of better days for his state party.
“He’s a leader, first and foremost,” said State Committeewoman LaKeySha Frazier Bosley, a Democratic state representative who represents St. Louis’ 79th District. Bosley, who got Butler to run, said Butler was already going to the areas of the state that Democrats need to pick up in order to achieve a “big-tent all-inclusive” party.
Scott Faughn, publisher of the conservative Missouri Times, agreed with Bosley’s assessment when he tweeted, “I know it’s hard time for Missouri Democrats, but from practical experience to motivating people, to having a great feel for elections, there is no one better to take on the work of mounting a comeback than @MikeButlerSTL.”
Bosley said that Butler was “willing to travel, willing to let the rubber hit the road,” in the effort to turn the party around.
As for being the first African-American to hold the position, Bosley said, “It is an extreme historic event.”
Butler said the work of Stacey Abrams in Georgia had helped African Americans in states such as Missouri.
Abrams, a Democrat who served in Georgia’s state House of Representatives and became its minority leader, narrowly lost a race for Georgia governor in 2018, in what some say was voter suppression. But she has kept up her effort to get out the vote. That effort is thought to have helped Biden win in Georgia.
Butler said his job was to motivate the more than a million Democrats in Missouri and to support candidates who share their beliefs.
It may seem odd, but he claims he got his start playing baseball as a boy for the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club, now called the Boys & Girls Club of Greater St. Louis. He got angry when an opposing team didn’t play fair.
“My dad said, ‘Life isn’t fair,’” Butler said. “I decided I would make life fair to everyone.”
Following up on that decision, he got elected to student government in middle school and at Parkway North High School. At Alabama A&M University, he was elected president of the Student Government Association.
Butler spent a couple of years working as a replenishment manager at WalMart’s home office in Bentonville, Ark., and then got his master’s degree in public affairs at the University of Missouri-Columbia. After that he moved into political life by interning in the state legislature and then working as a legislative aide.
From there, he was elected a state representative for the 79th District, which includes parts of north, central and south St. Louis. While he was a state representative, he was elected to the Democratic caucus.
Butler moved on, and defeated longtime recorder of deeds Sharon Carpenter in 2018. It was then that Bosley approached him about running for head of the state Democratic party.
During his two-year term, Butler said, he will influence every campaign in Missouri.
“It’s a large organization, but I am happy to take over and improve [it],” he said.