On Wednesday, Nathan Tate, R-St. Clair, will travel to Jefferson City to begin a whirlwind of orientations required for all newly elected state House members leading up to their official swearing in on Jan. 4.
The Missourian spoke with Tate during a calm before the storm that will kick off what he hopes to be his first of many terms serving the people of the 119th legislative district, which covers the southern half of Franklin County and portions northwestern Washington County.
The district, which includes the towns St. Clair, Sullivan and Stanton on the I-44 corridor, was previously held by Dave Hinson, who served three terms and was recently elected to a seat on the Franklin County Commission as Second District Commissioner.
Much like their first days in high school, Tate along with 38 other first timers, will meet at the capital to try and learn the ins and outs of the process and simpler things like where the cafeteria and restrooms are.
“It is a lot like high school,” Tate said. “There are freshman, sophomore, junior and senior legislators in the House. Luckily, I drew a good number and I’ll be number 9 on the list instead of 38.”
He explained that list of incoming lawmakers will determine many things at the Capitol including the location of his office and desk on the floor.
Tate said he plans to keep on outgoing State Rep. Dave Hinson’s legislative assistant, Lynn Overton, to help him in the early days.
“She knows the district and the people in Jefferson City know her,” Tate said. “I’m not going to teach someone anything when I’m still learning myself.”
Beginning Monday, Dec. 5, Tate and the other 38 freshmen, 19 Republicans and 19 Democrats, will board buses for a two-week tour of the entire state to get a feel for areas not just close to home.
This tour will also act as a bit of a mixer for the newbies to get acquainted with each other and some of the veterans in Jeff City.
“The day after the election, the Republicans were called to caucus in Jefferson City,” Tate said. “I just wanted to take it all in. One of the veteran reps saw me taking photos with my phone and told me ‘This never gets old.’. I told him I hope it doesn’t.”
Coming in green, Tate admits he has a lot to learn but looks forward to putting forward his ideas and championing some of his core causes like home schooling, veterans affairs, first responder protections and transportation issues.
With early bill filing beginning Dec. 1, Tate hopes at first to piggy-back on legislation from other lawmakers to progress his agenda.
He said he has spoken with fellow Franklin County legislators Justin Alferman and Paul Curtman. As well as State Sen. Dave Schatz, who have all offered their assistance in his assimilation.
It Finally Happened
After 11 months of campaigning and lessons learned, Tate may now have more questions than answers when it comes to the next six months of his new life and career, but he says he is 100 percent ready for whatever may come.
“This is a dream come true,” Tate said, sitting in his office at Main Line Hauling in St. Clair. “I’ve wanted to be involved in politics since I was 19 years old. I had voted in maybe one election before that. I had a government class at ECC and I was hooked.”
Before running for the seat vacated by Dave Hinson, Tate served on the St. Clair City Council, and although the thought to move up was in the back of his mind, the timing wasn’t right.
“I thought I had a couple more years,” Tate said. “I was going to wait until Dave (Hinson) was termed out. Then when he announced he wasn’t running again I had to make a choice.”
Since he with little or no opposition for his terms on the city council, Tate had never really had to pound the pavement campaigning for a seat. In this race, facing two primary opponents, he had to step up his game.
“I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” Tate said. “I really didn’t know what to expect. I figured I’d have to raise $25,000 to $30,000. Then I started getting phone calls from a lot of people. I got support from people I had no idea existed. Other people I expected to get support from, I didn’t.”
Meet the People
Tate said he began sending letters to all of his family and friends to garner both campaign and financial support.
“It really does take a village,” Tate said. “My entire family helped me on this campaign and nothing could have prepared us for the amount of work. I had a basic plan and I figured if I stuck to it, I couldn’t go wrong.”
Tate and his team began knocking on doors and attended church and community events to get his name out into the public.
“Basically, anytime there was a gathering of people, you need to be there,” Tate said. “If they don’t know you, they have to know what you stand for before they’ll vote for you. You can’t go out there acting like a big shot. It is very humbling and it gives me chills they have faith in me.”
When the smoke had cleared from the Aug. 2 primary, Tate defeated challengers Greg Pugh and Ron Blum.
Tate received 2,651 votes, which was 44 percent of the total 5,911 ballots cast. Pugh received 29 percent of the vote and Blum 26 percent.
Tate spent just under $25,000 on his campagn.
He did not have a Democratic opponent in the Nov. 8 general election.