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0000017b-27e8-d2e5-a37b-7fffd9f70000On November 8, Missourians chose their next governor, determined races for U.S. congressional seats and several for the Missouri statehouse. In addition, voters decided among five proposed changes to the Missouri constitution.See the election results here, and view our coverage below on the local candidates and issues. Post election, we're continuing to add to our coverage with related content.

AG Candidate Jake Zimmerman on Fixing Bad Governance, Running a Fair System

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Jason Rosenbaum
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St. Louis Public Radio
Jake Zimmerman speaking on St. Louis Public Radio's Politically Speaking program in February.

Jake Zimmerman says one of his main priorities if elected Missouri’s next attorney general is to fix the “mess” in Jefferson City.

The Democratic candidate and current St. Louis County Assessor says politics in the state capitol are broken due to the combination of unlimited campaign contributions and gifts from lobbyists and no revolving door ban that would delay how quickly a former legislator can become a lobbyist.

“That’s wrong. We are the only state in the union that has a combination of all three of those bad governance ideas. And it needs to be fixed,” he said.

Zimmerman, who spoke with KSMU during a recent stop in Springfield, served as an assistant attorney general before elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 2006. He won the assessor post in 2011.

He says reigning in campaign contributions, lobbyist gifts and establishing a cooling-off period for former lawmakers is necessary for anyone “wanting to affect public policy in this state.”

The Missouri legislature narrowly approved removing contribution limits in 2008. And over the past several years, there’s been growing talk about re-instituting those limits.

Zimmerman feels the mounting talk along with some negative stories surrounding the issue can help.

“I think there’s a moment in time approaching when the voice of the people can be heard. And couple that with a little bit of good old fashioned shame and I think that perhaps this legislature can, with some advocacy from a bully pulpit, be persuaded to do the right thing. And if they can’t, then ultimately it’s gonna have to come through a combination of law enforcement where people break the existing laws and changing the laws through the initiative process so the voters can have their say.”

Our conversation with Zimmerman came shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states. He applauded the decision, noting that it’s now time to move on and make this a more just state for everybody.

He also expressed concern for the Missouri Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold two November ballot items on the right to farm, or Amendment 1, and the right to bear arms, Amendment 5.

Critics had argued that the measures, which were both approved by voters, misled the public and will have unintended consequences such as allow convicted felons to own weapons or grant more rights to foreign agriculture companies. The judges determined in late June that the summaries for both proposals were fair.

Zimmerman, who says he’s a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, says he also supports the “common sense idea” of keeping weapons out of the hands of dangerous criminals and the mentally ill.

“And I am deeply concerned that the language of that firearms amendment, as it was written, is now putting our prosecutors in a situation where they may not be able to prosecute felons in possession of firearms. And that’s worrisome and that’s dangerous,” said Zimmerman.

The chief sponsor of Amendment 5 was state Sen. Kurt Schaefer. The Republican from Columbia is also a 2016 candidate for Missouri attorney general. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in late June, Schaefer called the decision a clear win for Missouri gun owners, sportsmen and future generations.

Zimmerman, a self-described “common sense, middle-of-the road Democrat,” believes that’s what citizens are looking for in a candidate.

Referring to Schaefer, he said, “I don’t think they’re looking for right-wing talking points. I don’t think they’re looking for people trying to curry favor with extreme interest groups, and I think November (2016) will tell the tale.”  

Zimmerman expressed admiration for Democratic challenger state Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, with whom he believes there can be a “frank and respectful exchange of ideas” during the primary.

He also credited the work of Missouri’s current attorney general and fellow Democrat, Chris Koster, who is running for governor in 2016.

Zimmerman says he’ll work toward fairness as the state’s top lawyer, concluding that there’s not a Democratic or Republican way to enforce the law.

“And if the system is fair for everybody and you make sure that everyone has a voice, regardless of if they sit on the chamber of commerce in St. Louis or they work the fields outside of Nixa, then you’re doing what you were elected to do.”

Follow KSMU throughout the 2016 election season to learn about the candidates and the issues facing Missouri.