First of all, I want to take this opportunity to thank everybody for their well wishes and congratulations. I am honestly blown away by it all and feel humbled by all the kind words. I hope to stop by the Missouri Capitol again while the legislature churns.
I didn't mention anything about the future of this blog yesterday, because I'm honestly not sure what will come of it. I don't plan on adding any state government-related content here after tomorrow. I will, however, still be contributing commentaries to KBIA on a semi-regular basis. So I may continue to post them here for organizational purposes. And if there's a new venture that's separate from this site, I will obviously post the address.
Here is my latest commentary. I'll post some videos from the first day of session tomorrow:
After over seven and a half years living in Columbia, I am relocating to St. Louis. I have taken a job as the Web editor for Missouri Lawyers Media Additionally, I will no longer cover the Missouri State Capitol on a regular basis.
I am tremendously grateful and excited for this opportunity. And I wanted to sincerely thank everybody who helped me get to where I am today.
I've been writing newspaper articles since I was in middle school.
In fact, I consider myself a reporter first and foremost, even though
some may understandably infer that blogging is my passion.
Reporting is not just a practical way for writers to make a decent living in this country. It goes further than that. Reporting forces insular people to become expressive. It prompts individuals to reach out to others, even when it's out of their comfort zones. And it provides a wonderful chance for exposure inside a community - or, perhaps, a state.
The funny thing is that if it wasn’t for a smiley face cookie, I would probably be a
The cookie I speak of came from Caryl Jo Dagro, my high school
journalism teacher for three years. She was tough and often unforgiving. So tough, in fact, that I
was failing an introductory journalism class because I could not manually crop
When I saw this grade, I was angry – and ashamed. I decided to
get out of a more advanced journalism class for a film class. And I seemed well on my way to studying
history in college. After all, I could name all of the presidents in
backward order. I was destined to be stuck in a library, reading primary
sources while listening to house music.
When Dagro found out, she called me into her office. On her
desk was a big smiley face cookie readily available at Chicagoland White
Hens. I don’t recall what she said exactly, but it was something along the
lines of ‘keep your head up,’ ‘don’t quit’ and ‘work hard.’
The ploy worked. I dropped the film class and began my path that will change pretty soon. I've made mistakes throughout my life and my career. But taking that cookie was the best decision I ever made.
There are, of course, so many people to thank. That includes all of my friends at the Columbia Daily Tribune, the Columbia Business Times, the St. Louis Beacon, KBIAand the University of Missouri Journalism School. I'd also like to thank my reporting colleagues at the Missouri Capitol for your infinite wisdom and companionship.
And of course, I'd like to thank all my friends in Columbia for making these past years the greatest period of time of my life.
Thank you all for your support, advice and encouragement. I'll meet you all in St. Louis.
BACKGROUND: I'm not the type of person who throws out profanity in workplace situations. But in January 2008, I did it twice in a day when reacting to separate news events.
The first moment came early in the morning when news outlets reported that Heath Ledger had died. This was pre-The Dark Knight, so the best memories of the Aussie star included stints in Ten Things I Hate About You, A Knight's Tale and Monster's Ball. Nevertheless, his death prompted me to blurt out a word that would have earned me a time out in pre-school.
After the initial shock wore off, I went back to my work day. Most of my afternoon was consumed by a hearing about whether felons should have the right to bail bondsmen. Not exactly a thrilling issue, but still interesting enough for me to pay attention. When I went back to my office to write a blog post about the hearing, I this headline on the Kansas City Star's Buzz Blog.
I uttered the same expletive that I utilized hours before. And this was one story that I wasn't going to be able to shake off right away.
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: I covered Gov. Matt Blunt more than any other Missouri chief executive. Blunt managed to pass most his agenda within a couple of years - which was impressive, considering his predecessor had a major trouble on certain initiatives.
But Blunt's term had rocky moments. Democrats sharply criticized his decision to cut the state's Medicaid program. His staff sometimes propelled his administration into controversy that he probably didn't need to deal with. Blunt also faced the prospect of facing an opponent for re-election with fairly substantial name recognition and political savvy.
There's been endless speculation about the "real" reason why Blunt decided not to run again. But the explanation he gave - that he accomplished much of his agenda and didn't feel a "sense of mission" for a second term - showcases the inherent risks of running for re-election as a chief executive. For instance, there are not many examples in American history of Presidents having successful second terms. George W. Bush, of course, was weakened by Katrina and the economic collapse. Clinton was impeached. Reagan encountered Iran Contra. Nixon resigned in disgrace after Watergate engulfed the political scene. Even historically popular presidents like Harry Truman, Franklin Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt had less-than-stellar second terms.
If Blunt had ran for re-election and won - which was not a certainty - his focus in office would be to craft a budget and deal with whatever political issue becomes important. That's not exactly as enticing as enacting a comprehensive policy agenda.
In any case, Blunt's decision not to run again sparked a political domino game. U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof and state Treasurer Sarah Steelman decided to run for governor. The contested primary and the Democratic tilt of the 2008 election helped Democrats capture four out of the five statewide offices.
Today, Blunt is immersed in the private sector and is probably devoting some time to his family. But while the urge to write Blunt off in the realm of politics is strong, there was another youthful governor named Kit Bond who didn't get a chance for a second term immediately after his first one. Four years later, he was back in office and on track for a lengthy political career.
Can Blunt repeat history? We'll have to wait to find out.
FUN FACT: Had Blunt decided to run again, Clint Zweifel would likely still be in the Missouri House. He decided not to seek the office earlier in the election cycle, but jumped into the race once Steelman started running for governor. Zweifel narrowly won the Democratic primary and the general election.
It was indeed a stunning development. Koster was not by any means a backbencher lawmaker. Rather, he became highly visible in battles over stem cell research, the reconfiguration of eminent domain laws and oversight over CAFOs. His gaudy fundraising ability and speech-making skills made him a top-flight contender in the Republican Attorney General primary. It seemed like a decision that came out of nowhere.
When he came to Columbia on the first day of August 2007, Koster cited his inability to agree with the Republican Party on the judicial selection process, stem cell research or labor union issues. He also pointed to the party's chilly relations with so-called "moderates."
Some - such as Sens. Jeff Smith and Victor Callahan - embraced Koster. Others - such as Reps. Jeff Harris and Margaret Donnelly - called him an opportunist.
By November 2008, the entire state would call Koster "attorney general."
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Few moves genuinely took me off guard more than Koster's decision to switch parties. For instance, it was not necessarily a shock that Sen. Kit Bond decided to retire earlier this year. And even Gov. Matt Blunt's decision not to run for re-election had been bandied about in the months before his announcement.
Koster had been elected into a leadership position within his caucus and was placed in charge of monitoring state Senate races in 2006. Moreover, he had taken stances on issues - such as the debate over whether to standardize the law governing CAFOs - that were not exactly friendly to Democratic interest groups.
But whatever his decision, Koster soon switched gears to succeeding then-Attorney General Jay Nixon. The primary was brutal, as both of his opponents attacked him with great ferocity. His Democratic credentials were constantly under siege. And he had to face off against two relatively strong challengers in Donnelly and Harris. But by the time the smoke cleared, Koster had squeaked out a primary win. Some attributed the victory to a fourth candidate - Molly Williams - taking votes away from Donnelly. Yet, others pointed to Koster's advertisements, which were seen as some of the best of the entire election cycle.
To some extent, the general election contest between Koster and Michael Gibbons lacked the pizazz of the primary. There were certainly some fierce attack, yet the race got overshadowed by the governor's contest and the presidential election. But Koster's decision to switch parties actually lived up the press release's billing by shaking up the state's political scene.
FUN FACT: Anybody who follows me on Twitter knows that I'm a fan of professional wrestling. And my affinity for the "sport" prompted me to allude to a moment when describing Koster's party switch and primary victory.
Back in the 1990s, Ric Flair had an talk show on WCW called "Flair for the Gold." Like most talk shows, Flair used the opportunity to interview wrestlers in between matches. He brought out "The British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith and Sting to talk about an upcoming six-man tag match. Then out of nowhere, Sid Vicious and Harlem Heat confront the duo. Sid demands to know the idenity of Sting and Bulldog's parter. After a few moments of arguing, Sting says the following immortal words:
"All I have to say is our partner is going to SHOCK the world. Because he is none other than THE SHOCK... MASTER!"
After some cheesy pyrotechnics, the man formerly known as Typhoon fell through a wall and landed on his head. When got back up, the world was stunned to see this guy.