Matt Blunt's battle with Jay Nixon panned out well for democracy in Missouri. Scrutiny from two administrations regarding campaign financing and use of public office to further political careers provided great fodder for reporters throughout 2007.
Both politicians took hits and were forced to admit violations. For Jay Nixon it was a $50,000 refund to the state for using a state vehicle to campaign that represented the greatest hit. For Matt Blunt it was e-mails generated from state funds to rally pro-life troops that caused a ruckus and succeeding lawsuit from counselor Eckersley.
When Blunt issued his state of Missouri address, it was Jay Nixon's response that headlined in St. Louis making Missouri the only state that a political contender's response eclipsed the highest ranking officials. (We followed 15 of 50 Gubernatorial Addresses)
The race was close, Jay Nixon and Matt Blunt showed varying leadership positions in an extremely tight race. Who was poised to win changed on a weekly basis - far closer than the Obama/Clinton polling - but with similar form.
Still, it was the citizens that were winning as each candidate put his best foot forward battling for the hearts and minds of Missouri voters on every front. For example Blunt announed a harder stance on illegal immigration - Nixon announced a bounty for every illegal alien reported. The battle over who could be Mr. Sunshine bennifitted Missouri's citizenry the most. Blunt launched the accountability portal enabling residents to see every expense the state government made - stopping just short of revealing what school teachers eat for lunch. Nixon sourced every complaint made to his office.
Yes, the battle improved democracy and open government for all Missourians. Exiting what's truly best for Missourians and entering the realm of partisan politics - the announcement that Blunt won't run for a second term becomes a great tragedy. Not only did Blunt leave the table with millions of dollars for supporters, he never announced a replacement. Lt. Governor Peter Kinder announced he'll be announcing his candidacy in a few weeks but Governor Blunt hasn't announced that he'll be announcing support for any particular candidate. Even the religiously partisan opposition has to be a little upset not knowing how or who to launch their next hate fest against.
Everyone is left wanting. The first question people are wondering is, "Why?". Sure, the "I've accomplished everything I set out to do", line sounds good - but any writer in the state will tell you - it doesn't look good on paper. Something is up. What is it? Is Mitt Romney to announce boy blunt will be his VP running mate? Does Eckersley have a smoking gun to inspire a record-breaking settlement offer? Or is there another story/scandal/promotion we haven't seen yet.
Every father can relate to a desire to spend more time with his family, but no one is buying "downtime" as the only story. The timing is bad. We'll have to wait and see- but something is coming - something big - big enough to take a Blunt out of state politics and Missouri politico's haven't seen anything that large yet. We're waiting for the super shocker while we're still in shock over an announcement that hasn't fully set in.