Missouri state Sen. Bob Dixon said this week he will not vote to expel state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal from the General Assembly, even though she suggested President Donald Trump should be assassinated.
Dixon is right to oppose expulsion. If another Republican joins him and all nine state Senate Democrats vote to retain her, Chappelle-Nadal will not be tossed from the General Assembly.
To be clear: Chappelle-Nadal’s comment about Trump was reprehensible. She should resign.
But resigning is different from being expelled. Resignation would be an important act of contrition on Chappelle-Nadal’s part, a recognition that her remarks crossed an unacceptable line.
Expulsion is something else. It would be seen as a purely partisan maneuver, with Senate Republicans and Lt. Gov. Mike Parson banding together to oust a Democrat. It could have the effect of turning Chappelle-Nadal into something of a martyr, a victim of hyperpartisan punishment and not her own imprudent words.
And it would set a horrible precedent.
Space does not allow a full recitation of the stupid things state legislators have said over the years. Just this year, a Missouri state representative suggested homosexuals are somehow less than human. In 2015, a House member railed against the potential “Islamization” of the state.
Remember Kansas Rep. Virgil Peck? In 2011, he suggested shooting illegal immigrants from the air might be worth discussing.
These statements, and others like them, may be less abhorrent than Chappelle-Nadal’s comment. But forcefully removing elected officials could become routine if lawmakers get a taste of acting as partisan judges of their colleagues.
Some Republicans have argued that Chappelle-Nadal violated the law and should be kicked out as a result. She hasn’t been convicted of a crime, though, and General Assembly members pleading guilty to DWI and marijuana possession were not expelled.
The resignation of former Missouri House Speaker John Diehl is a better precedent. After The Star revealed Diehl’s inappropriate texts with a female intern in 2015, the most powerful politician in the legislature quit. He knew his behavior was wrong.
Chappelle-Nadal should follow a similar path. Her constituents deserve effective representation, and the controversy has made that an impossible task for her. Chappelle-Nadal’s statement will continue to distract from the work she was elected to do.
Dixon has voiced support for censure and removing Chappelle-Nadal from state Senate committees. Those may be appropriate sanctions, a way for lawmakers to demonstrate their displeasure with their colleague.
But resignation is the goal. A messy debate over Chappelle-Nadal’s service could be avoided, and the Democratic senator could show genuine remorse.
Chappelle-Nadal should take that step. Dixon deserves credit for leaving the decision to her.