By every appearance, state Rep. Leonard "Jonas" Hughes IV is a guy who has trouble getting his act together.
The Missouri Ethics Commission sued him to recover fees and fines related to campaign-finance violations. He was delinquent on his property taxes. Earlier this month, The Kansas City Star reported that he hadn't appeared in the Capitol for more than two weeks, an absence that Hughes vaguely attributed to constituent matters. Reached Thursday, Hughes provided another explanation.
Hughes tells The Pitch he has been dealing with health issues. He says he has lupus, a condition that he was discovered to have in 2000. "It really flared up bad," he says. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects more women than men.
Hughes, 31, says he's been trying to get up-to-speed after his recent absence. He was in the Capitol earlier this week as well as last week. "I'm not all the way better, but the show must go on," he says.
Though he didn't talk about having lupus when the Star asked about the two weeks he'd missed, Hughes has cited health problems in the past.
In 2004, during his first campaign for the House, Hughes was questioned about his claim that he graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The Star contacted the registrar, who said Hughes did not complete his coursework, which began in 1997. Hughes said he received grades of "incomplete" in a few courses because of health issues.
As for the most recent attack, Hughes believes it was stress-related.
Elected to a fourth term last November, Hughes was denied his seat because of an outstanding $19,090 bill from the Missouri Ethics Commission. The ethics commission fined him for missing deadlines and for misusing campaign funds. Records indicated that he made cash withdrawals and wrote checks payable to himself.
Hughes paid the Ethics Commission $18,830 on February 8, scraping up the balance the following day. Once he was sworn in, Hughes started
talking tweeting trash:
Finally, all you haters, who thought I was finished. Spread false rumors about me. You can eat a, rhymes with pick. I am bloody but unbowed
Asked on Thursday where he got the money, a less bombastic Hughes says he is grateful for his family. "My mom is a wonderful person," he says.
Hughes says he doesn't agree with the Ethics Commission findings. But he acknowledges that he's acted immaturely. "Between 25 and 30 is a long time for a man," he says.
Hughes belongs to one of Kansas City's most prominent political families. His father is a Kansas City Municipal Court judge. His grandfather co-founded Freedom Inc., and his grandmother served in the Jackson County Legislature in the 1970s.
So was it a mistake for Hughes to get into the family business at such a young age? He says no. "In a changing world, we need fresh ideas, and fresh ideas come from youth," he says.
If Hughes decides to keep it fresh on the political stage, it will have to take place someplace other than the Missouri House after 2012. Term limits prevent him from seeking another term.