JEFFERSON CITY - Rep. Keith English has left the House Democratic Party to serve as an independent.
The announcement came on Tuesday after English tried in vain for weeks to be reinstated onto House committees.
"I am still a Democrat at heart and I didn't want to leave," said English. "I'm still voting the same way I did before; my labor-friendly Democrats won't have to worry."
Turmoil between English and the House Democrats started in May of 2014, when he voted to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of tax-cut bill SS SB 509. Republicans needed 109 votes to override the governor's veto, and they got exactly 109, after English voted with Republicans. He was the only Democrat to do so.
The next day, House Minority Leader Rep. Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis City, removed English from the four committees on which he served: Local Government, Utilities, Financial Institutions and Insurance Policy. This barring from committees continued through the summer and into next session, according to English.
English took an office on the third floor of the Capitol in December of 2014, where the Republicans kept their offices. The action displeased House Democrats, and they urged him to return to a Democratic floor. English, who had just refurnished his new office, refused to leave unless he was compensated. According to Hummel, English would have been placed back into committees if he left the third-floor office.
"Since then, we were planning on putting him back on committees this year," said Hummel. "He took an office on the third floor with the Republicans, in violation of House Democratic Caucus rules as not taking offices or anything of value from the other party."
English said he was not made aware of these rules until after he had completely redone his office using money out of his pocket.
In addition, Hummel said that English had lied and made "racially insensitive comments" during caucus. English fervently denied both of the claims. Hummel said he was "disappointed" about English leaving the Democratic party.
"We've made every reasonable effort we could to try and come to some other conclusion," said Hummel. "At the end of the day, he felt like this was the best thing for him."
House Democrats now hold only 44 seats of the 163 member chamber.