Minority leader quits after DWI arrest

The Missouri House of Representatives will have a new minority leader by Monday.

Rep. Mark Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, resigned Monday as minority leader after pleading guilty to charges of driving while intoxicated and child endangerment. Richardson will not leave his seat in the House. Instead, he will forfeit his leadership post.

He was pulled over Saturday night with his 4-year-old daughter in the car. His blood alcohol level was 0.11, 0.01 over the legal limit for intoxication.

Richardson was arrested on the same charges in Arkansas in 1995. Charges were dropped because he was able to prove cold medicine he had taken put him over the legal alcohol limit.

"This entire matter has distracted from the timely and critical demands of the last 12 days of the session," Richardson wrote in a statement. "For the good of the state, I wish for my personal incident not to distract from the many issues we face in the coming days."

House Speaker Steve Gaw, D-Moberly, said he found out about the decision Tuesday morning. He said it isn't his place to judge whether Richardson should have resigned.

"That was a decision he needed to make," Gaw said.

Gaw said he didn't sense an overwhelming move to force Richardson out, although he knew some people spoke out on the subject.

Rep. Jewell Patek, R-Chillicothe, agreed with Gaw on many things. Patek said he wasn't surprised Richardson resigned.

"Mark has always done what was best for our [Republican] caucus," Patek said.

Patek also said many House members thought Richardson made the right decision.

Richardson will be replaced in an election Monday morning. Four representatives are running for the position: Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph" Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville" Carson Ross, R-Blue Springs" and Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City. House Republicans will vote for the new minority leader.

Patek said none of the candidates look to be a front runner at the moment.

"I think all four bring special talents to the leadership position," Patek said. "I think the party is going to be well-represented."

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