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.
BACKGROUND: Not so long ago, there was a show on television called Futurama. And somehow, Richard Nixon's head became a big part of it.
Indeed, one of my favorite parts of the show [besides, of course, Zoidberg] was how Richard Nixon's head somehow became President of the United States. Although this weird and hilarious by itself, it was a subconscious nod to Nixon's ability to overcome the odds and burst back into American political life. I mean, who cares that he resigned in shame and was over 1,000 years old? Nixon showed grit.
What does Richard Nixon's head have to do with Gov. Jay Nixon's inauguration? Umm... nothing. I just wanted an excuse to put a picture of Richard Nixon's head on the blog.
Anyway, Jay Nixon's elevation to the Missouri governorship was not terribly surprising. He had effectively campaigned for the office since 2005 and had a lot more statewide name recognition than U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof. But his election was my first chance to see a live inauguration.
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: For one thing, it is always enjoyable to watch a transition of power. That provides reporters with a chance to see who will fill certain posts in an administration. But the inauguration itself was very cool. It's always nice to witness a tradition that goes back decades.
FUN FACT: It was really, really, really, really cold that day.
Switching gears to a sports story that doesn't involve scandal, Gov. Jay Nixon's office just announced that Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright will keynote the Missouri Governor's Annual Prayer Breakfast.
The event, which takes place in early January in Jefferson City, supports a program called the Governor's Student Leadership Forum on Faith and Values. The even brings together Missouri college students for "a three-day study of faith and leadership."
Wainwright endeared himself to Cardinals fans when he struck out Brandon Inge to record the final out of the 2006 World Series. He's also become a dominant starting pitcher, nearly winning the NL Cy Young Award this year.
You can get more information about the event by clicking here.
Deer of Missouri - Gov. Jay Nixon has put you on notice.
Well, not really. But the Democratic chief executive did successfully shoot a doe yesterday while hunting in Pulaski County. He donated the meat from the animal to Share the Harvest, a public-private partnership that donates food to the needy.
"Share the Harvest is a wonderful way for Missourians to continue that tradition, by providing fresh, nutritious meat for their neighbors in need," Nixon said in a statement.
According to a press release, Nixon took the meat to Steve-n-Sons Custom Meat Processing in Newberg, which is one of 125 approved processors for the program.
This week's Monday focus for the Associated Press takes a look at the strained relationship between Gov. Jay Nixon and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder.
AP scribe David Lieb writes that Kinder didn't even know that the governor was in Texas during this month's fake hostage crisis at the Governor Office Building. He also wrote that Kinder has been relieved of many duties that he performed during Gov. Matt Blunt's term in office.
In a sense, the friction between the two statewide officials is part of a historical trend. I wrote an article for Missouri Lawyers Weekly earlier this year about the past squabbles between governors and lieutenant governors of different political parties.
One notable moment recounted by Western Illinois University political science professor Rick Hardy involved then-Gov. Joe Teasdale and then-Lt. Gov. Bill Phelps. The two men had an acrimonious relationship, even fighting over office supplies and furniture. By contrast, then-Gov. Kit Bond and then-Lt. Gov. Kenneth Rothman had a more cordial relationship, with the Republican chief executive turning over power to the Democratic statewide official multiple times.
Of course, pairing the offices doesn't always equate to a lack of turbulence. Then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich and then-Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn - who were twice elected in Illinois in a ticket - despised each other. Quinn remarked before he assumed the governorship that the two officials rarely talked.
Gov. Jay Nixon announced a new agreement between the state and higher education institutions that would keep tuition static for the second consecutive year.
The governor was at the University of Missouri-Columbia this morning to reiterate the terms of the deal, which needs General Assembly approval to take effect. Under the agreement, appropriations for public higher education institutions would be cut by roughly 5.2 percent in exchange for a tuition freeze. The agreement would affect undergraduates who are Missouri residents.
Here's the governor and UM system President Gary Forsee answering some questions from the media:
House Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin, issued the following statement concerning Gov. Jay Nixon's announcement regarding higher education funding:
House of Representatives, we work each year to provide Missouri students with the tools necessary
to compete in our highly competitive global economy. There is no question
that House Republicans want to keep higher education tuition as low as possible,
even in a time of economic devastation.
We appreciate the
Governor’s tuition proposal and will put it through the normal process,
along with any other budget recommendations from the Governor.
difficult times, we realize the importance of easing the financial burden on Missouri students and
their families in every way possible and will consider this when crafting next
Nixon announced today that he would cut funding for higher education
institutions by roughly 5.2 percent in exchange for a tuition freeze.