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Sen Chappelle-Nadal Apologizes Again for Remarks

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal apologized again on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017, at the Wellspring Church in Ferguson for the remark she made about President Trump online, hoping that Trump would be assassinated. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY • Calls for state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal to resign her seat came from far and wide after the senator commented on Facebook hoping for President Donald Trump's assassination.

The Democrat from University City has refused. 

So leading Senate Republicans have threatened to expel her from the chamber. But do they have the votes?

One Senate Republican says he won't go along with the plan.

State Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, wrote in a letter to Republican colleagues that he condemned Chappelle-Nadal's quickly deleted Facebook comment earlier this month, calling it "intemperate and embarrassing."

But Dixon would stop short of voting to expel her, the Kansas City Star reported Tuesday. He did say he supported censure of Chappelle-Nadal as well as removing her from committees.

“Some will say in refusing to support expulsion I have not gone far enough, a few will say in supporting censure, and denying committee participation, I have gone too far," he wrote, according to the Star. "After thoughtful consideration and deliberation each must do what is in his or her heart and make their best-considered decision. I wish you the best in that pursuit.”

Dixon told the Post-Dispatch he did send the letter, but would not share a copy, saying it was intended to be confidential.

"I stand by every word I said," he said.

GOP Sens. Paul Wieland of Imperial, Jeanie Riddle of Mokane, and Ryan Silvey of Kansas City confirmed they did receive a letter from Dixon, but also declined to share it.

The news from Dixon is important because Chappelle-Nadal's opponents will have to come up with 23 votes to expel her from the Senate. Republicans hold 23 seats with one future member, state Sen.-elect Sandy Crawford, R-Buffalo, waiting to be sworn in.

If all Democrats voted to keep Chappelle-Nadal — and if she could sway two Republicans to her defense — she would keep her seat until her term expires in 2019.

Riddle said she would not comment on whether she would vote to remove Chappelle-Nadal. Neither would Silvey, who said he spoke personally with Chappelle-Nadal.

"Right now that's between me and her," he said.

Wieland said he hopes Chappelle-Nadal resigns so the Senate doesn't have to take further action. If the Senate moves forward with expulsion proceedings, Wieland said senators would have to act as jurors. He said it would not make sense right now to weigh in.

"I'm going to wait and hear all the facts before I make a decision," he said.

Minority Floor Leader Sen. Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, already announced last week she would remove Chappelle-Nadal of her committee assignments. 

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, and Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, have called for rare expulsion proceedings only if Chappelle-Nadal does not resign by the upcoming September veto session.

Lt. Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, has said the expulsion process would take place during a special session of the Legislature.

Meanwhile, Chappelle-Nadal has tried to win over lawmakers who could hold her fate in their hands. In a news conference on Aug. 20, she apologized to Trump. On Sunday, she met with conservative donor Foster Friess to encourage civility in politics.

At the meeting, Chappelle-Nadal said she was calling each member of the Missouri Senate, asking for forgiveness. 

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Jack Suntrup covers state government and politics for the Post-Dispatch.