Gov. Jay Nixon called for campaign finance limits today in a conference call with reporters.
To read more about this issue, click here for my post on the Columbia Business Times blog.
Gov. Jay Nixon called for campaign finance limits today in a conference call with reporters.
To read more about this issue, click here for my post on the Columbia Business Times blog.
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.
BACKGROUND: Press releases are a dime a dozen in Missouri politics. But the ones that don't feature much information typically bring about the most news.
That was the case when then-Sen. Chris Koster sent a missive to press outlets that he was about to make "a major announcement" that may "transform the political landscape of Missouri." A few hours after the e-mail was sent, Koster had told several media outlets that he was departing from the Republican Party.
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.
BACKGROUND: You could argue that I was covering the battle over Missouri's Ninth District congressional seat before it was cool.
That's because I was assigned to the race in 2006, which featured a match up between Kenny Hulshof and Duane Burghard that was effectively over before it began. Even though Burghard was arguably a better candidate than previous Democratic challengers, he was underfunded and didn't come close to breaking through in the GOP-leaning congressional district. But you could say that I got hooked on the annual race, as it allowed me to examine a big area with an extensive and fascinating political history.
Things became more interesting when state Rep. Judy Baker waded into the Ninth District race in late 2007. But it wasn't until Hulshof decided not to run again that all electoral hell broke loose.
The Ninth District is unusual, because it has a fairly large bench of potential candidates from both major parties. Two former Democratic statewide officials - Joe Maxwell and Roger Wilson - are from the Ninth. And there are a whole bunch of Republicans who could hypothetically run for the seat. When filing ended, there were five Republicans and four Democrats running.
In essence, the Republican race was between Bob Onder and Blaine Luetkemeyer. And the Democratic contest was between Baker and Steve Gaw. But the other candidates had intriguing roles throughout the primary. Danie Moore, for instance, actually raised enough money to run television and radio advertisements. Lyndon Bode tried to appeal to conservative Democrats who were against abortion rights. Ken Jacob challenged Baker from the left. And there was also a random Republican candidate - Dan Bishir - who didn't really play any role in the campaign.
Despite the drama during the primary, Baker and Luetkemeyer won their primaries fairly easily. Afterward, both national parties promised to invest big money into the Ninth District race. That meant the district was subjected to a deluge of negative ads from both parties, a sure-fire sign of a competitive race. And while the race was indeed close, the Ninth stayed Republican with a Luetkemeyer victory.
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Out of all the races I've covered, the Ninth District featured more interesting candidates, exchanges, controversies, weird events and drama than any other campaign. It brought national attention to a congressional district that few thought about in the realm of competitiveness. And it signaled Blaine Luetkemeyer's comeback from the political abyss.
Alas, redistricting means that it'll be a rare event for U.S. House seats to be regularly contested. Although this year may break that trend, it may become a pretty predictable affair after 2012. So, I'm thankful I got to cover such a wild affair before it becomes boring again.
FUN FACT: Jeff Schaeperkoetter - a Democrat from Gasconade County - nearly ran for the seat. He dropped out, making a Luetkemeyer-Schaeperkoetter match impossible.
BACKGROUND: Most politicos know Claire McCaskill as a fixture on national talk shows and as a world-class Twitter user. But back in 2006, she was just one of many politicians trying to break into the World's Foremost Deliberative Body.
McCaskill decided to forgo another term as a state auditor and instead challenge Sen. Jim Talent's bid for a second term. Talent was smart, politically wonkish and had a pretty long tenure in Missouri politics. And after a close loss for the Missouri governorship in 2000, he managed to beat Sen. Jean Carnahan in a surprisingly good mid-term election for the Republican Party.
Thus, McCaskill's venture in national politics was not without risk. Talent didn't have any discernible scandal or flaw that made him easily beatable. He didn't have an abrasive personality like Conrad Burns or create a "Macaca" moment like George Allen. But he was weakened when the public became disenchanted with the Republican Party. And it didn't help that McCaskill was a fairly energetic campaigner who wasn't afraid to aim for votes in Republican strongholds outstate.
In the end, McCaskill was victorious. And her win helped the Democrats take over the U.S. Senate - a feat that was not expected by many pundits at the beginning of the election cycle. It was the start of what would be a full collapse of the Republican Party in Congress.
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: I think my blog post from 2006 said it best:
This choice is about as surprising as the outcome of the 25th District state House race. But the clash of the two well-honed, statewide personalities was about as exciting as any contest in recent memory. Staying close up until the final moments, the contest ended with McCaskill emerging triumphant and Talent being ousted from the Senate.
Although Virginia Sen. George Allen’s spectacular fall ultimately gave the U.S. Senate to the Democratic Party, McCaskill victory was a crucial piece in the party’s jaunt to take back Congress. Now that the campaign is over, the state — and the country — will be watching to see what the 110th Congress accomplishes.
Even today, the Senate race between McCaskill and Talent still sticks out. It featured two candidates that were relatively evenly-matched in terms of experience and campaign savvy. The race eventually resulted in McCaskill becoming a rather high-profile national political figure, thanks in part to her decision to endorse Barack Obama's presidential campaign.
Still, I wouldn't be surprised if Talent made a political comeback. Few of the state's Republicans have the experience of running three statewide campaigns. And even though he lost two of them, they weren't exactly by landslide margins. Who knows? Maybe a 2012 re-match could end up differently. Stranger things have happened.
FUN FACT: When McCaskill was declared the winner, I watched her victory speech with Rep. Steve Hobbs and future House Speaker Ron Richard at the Holiday Inn Executive Center in Columbia. Needless to say, the atmosphere in the room was not exactly cheerful.
BACKGROUND: I've seen big issues come and go. But I've never seen anything with the staying power of the MOHELA asset sale.
I've always had a bit of trouble describing the MOHELA saga in succinct terms. That's because it is one of the most complicated and twisty political stories in recent memory. The brouhaha stems from Gov. Matt Blunt's desire to utilize assets from a quasi-government agency that provides low-interest student loans to build capital improvement projects at universities. Now just look at that previous sentence. I bet you think that sounds like a mundane legislative exercise.
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Since the plan was introduced in 2006, the MOHELA sale caused a revolt within the Missouri Republican caucus, became embroiled in the aforementioned stem cell research controversy, brought about questions of the effectiveness of the University of Missouri's standing in the legislature and became a major point of difference between Jay Nixon and Matt Blunt. But it also was the catalyst behind the most epic filibuster that I ever covered.
I will never forget how I came to the Missouri Capitol Building at the edge of an afternoon and watched floor debate continue into 6:30 a.m. By the time I came back to the offices of the Columbia Daily Tribune at 8 a.m., I had already worked for eight hours. And that was only the first part of the filibuster. The second portion featured a dramatic - and consequential - usage of a parliament move that shut off debate. By the time the smoke cleared, the University of Missouri lost their projects and the Missouri Senate had become a not-so-nice place.
To this day, the University of Missouri is still trying to find funding for the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center that was ultimately included in the MOHELA bill. And although it seemed the end of the cash chase was near this year, Nixon decided to withhold the money in the midst of a dismal budget situation.
The drama over the MOHELA sale proved that a seemingly routine political issue can provide some heated emotions and long-term consequences. And a lot of missed sleep.
FUN FACT: Sen. Jason Crowell used part of the MOHELA filibuster to announce that some dude was voted off American Idol.
BACKGROUND: When I first started my professional career as a state government reporter, I knew almost nothing about stem cell research. I remember that President George W. Bush made a highly-publicized speech in 2001 about the subject, but the issue got overshadowed by 9/11.
Then, I got assigned to write a story for the Columbia Daily Tribune profiling a ballot item making it illegal for the legislature to curtail the research. It was a fascinating experience that prompted me to interview scientists, theologians, politicians, doctors and regular people who had incredibly strong opinions. It was a great experience.
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: The issue of stem cell research had a sizable effect on Missouri politics in 2006 and 2007. It played a big role in the battle between Jim Talent and Claire McCaskill. It caused splits in the Republican Party, and to some extent the Democratic Party. And the issue played a role in legislative policy over the MOHELA sale and funding for the Life Sciences Research Board.
The issue also sparked an intense disagreement between Missourians. Some felt the research would cure diseases. Others believed the research was immoral. I've seen political debates unfold about a multitude of issues, but this was one that had profoundly passionate voices.
After the battles of 2007, the issue started to fade from the political radar. And besides some attempts to weaken Amendment 2, the issue of stem cell research has been largely absent since the 2009 session began. But the controversy generated gave it a decent place on this list.
FUN FACT: Michael J. Fox's advertisement in support of Claire McCaskill was one of the most talked about advertisements of the 2006 election cycle.
BACKGROUND: Some people wonder why John McCain made Sarah Palin his running mate. To answer that question, you've got to go back to the time before the Arizona Republican senator made his decision.
The selection of Joe Biden as Barack Obama's running mate was widely seen as a "safe" choice. Biden was seen as having gravitas in foreign affairs and domestic matters. But still, the Delaware senator was not exactly a barnburner of a pick. Given his dismal standing in the polls at the time, McCain needed a "game changing" selection.
Palin had been a favorite of some conservatives for a long time. Many liked how she took on Frank Murkowski in 2006 and how she governed in Alaska. Still, few seriously thought that McCain would pick Palin as his running mate. McCain proved the experts wrong.
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Only
a few days after McCain's decision, Palin was the star attraction at a
huge rally in St. Charles County. The rally featured many Republican luminaries, including Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and McCain.
But I guarantee that thousands of people would not have come to T.R.
Hughes Stadium if Palin had not been on the speaking list.
This was a period of time when Palin breathed quite a bit of life into McCain's floundering campaign. It was before her standing wilted in some respects under intense media scrutiny. But it should be noted that even after she went through the proverbial media cleaver, she still managed to attract thousands of people to pre-election rally in Jefferson City. Even today, she's still drawing interest after she's departed from elected office.
As noted before, I don't think Palin will be the Republican presidential nominee in 2012. But that doesn't mean that she won't be relevant force in American politics. On the contrary, I think she's only begun to shake things up.
FUN FACT: Numerous national media figures were at the St. Charles rally. Not only did I get to see FOX News' Carl Cameron scope out the speech in neat sunglasses, but I also got to meet James Rosen. Rosen - who probably is not related to me in any particular way - is a political reporter for FOX News.
BACKGROUND: As a resident of southern Columbia, the most exciting event I've experienced in the area was a balloon lift-off that occurred close to my apartment.
But John McCain easily surpassed the mounds of hot air when made a surprise visit to Columbia. Although the Republican
presidential contender only stopped for a bite to eat at a local BBQ joint, the trip understandably set off a local media frenzy. Me and my good friend Parker Eshelman were part of the local media pool that followed McCain from Columbia's airport to Buckingham Smokehouse Bar-B-Q.
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: McCain did make a statement at the end of his lunch about how Barack Obama wouldn't be good for the economy. But other than that, it was a terribly substantive affair. But it did give me a chance to meet some members of McCain's media horde, including Glenn Johnson. Johnson, of course, is the Associated Press reporter who confronted Mitt Romney about whether the former Massachusetts governor had lobbyists running his campaign. It was great getting to talk with him for a few moments.
I also enjoyed talking to Russ Duker, a local businessman active in the Boone County Republican Party. Duker was one of the people picked to have lunch with the presidential aspirant, and I enjoyed conversing with him after the event was over. It showed that a mundane event to the media can be a life-changing moment for others.
FUN FACT: McCain's actual lunch was closed to the media, so Eshelman and I ate outside the front door. The food was excellent.
BACKGROUND: If you came of age during the 1990s, then you know how memorable Bill Clinton was when he was President of the United States.
After vanquishing the seemingly invincible George Bush in 1992, Clinton presided over a fascinating time in American history. As the Internet grew in popularity and the economy boomed, Clinton shifted to the right in both his approach to foreign affairs and domestic issues. It's hard to believe that a Democratic chief executive launched military excursions in Iraq and the Balkans, significantly curtailed welfare and actually reduced the federal deficit. If a Democrat did that today, Republicans would likely praise that person as the second coming of William McKinley (or, more likely, Ronald Reagan).
But Clinton did not endear himself to the right when he was in office. Part of this disgust may have stemmed from jealousy over Clinton's political maneuvering, which included "triangulating" a lot of Republican ideas. Yet Clinton's sometimes abrasive personality and dangerous liaisons probably didn't help either.
Bill Clinton received a lot of criticism during the 2008 election cycle for various reasons, as it became big news when the former president would say something controversial while Hillary Clinton was campaigning. But when he came to Columbia in the midst of a testy primary battle with Barack Obama, Bill Clinton showcased for Columbia why he was likely elected in the first place.
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: As you can see, many presidential contenders made this list. But I found Clinton's speech to be one of the best. Not only was the address substantive - Clinton managed to back up every argument to vote for his wife with some notable reasoning - but I think he managed to keep the audience interested even though it was a lengthy speech.
Clinton is one of the most paradoxical presidents, mainly because his successes are sometimes overshadowed by his high-profile failures. His foreign policy initiatives in Ireland and the Balkans probably did a lot of long term good. But he's been criticized for his response to terrorism and for his lack of action in Rwanda. On the domestic front, he seemed to stay out of the way of the booming economy. But he also took stances on abortion, gun control and taxation that provided openings for the Republicans further down the road. And even though managed to easily escape being removed from office, the fact that it was considered in the first place probably isn't good for his legacy.
Even though this aforementioned legacy will take some time to formulate, Clinton's abilities as a speaker probably aren't in question. He seemed to be adept at persuading people that he could productively solve problems. That's what he showed on his visit to Columbia.
FUN FACT: The Missouri Student Recreation Center has a Lazy River.