Where do we go from here?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Gov. Matt Blunt's announcement Tuesday that he would not seek re-election was a surprise. It was almost as big a surprise that he managed to keep his plans private until they were announced in a YouTube video. There had been some rumors in recent weeks that something like this might happen, but most veteran politicians and political observers chalked such speculation up to election-year prattle.

Blunt said a major factor in his decision was the fact that he had accomplished his agenda. Indeed, he has spent his first three years doing what governors ought to do: ensuring a growing state economy, bolstering new jobs, holding the line on state spending and streamlining the operations of Missouri's government. In addition, Blunt successfully pushed for significant increases in funding for public schools. And his plan to convert Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority assets into grants for colleges and universities has had a huge impact on major projects across the state.

He did all of that. In the process, Blunt advocated -- and state legislators endorsed -- some tough decisions that had to be made at a time when state revenue was lagging. With the improving revenue picture of the last couple of years, Blunt and many other state officials are looking at ways to restore some programs and services that had to be cut. But those plans hinge largely on what happens next to the state, national and global economies.

Matt Blunt was the right governor at the right time for Missouri. His successor -- and there are many Republicans who are thinking hard today about running against the Democratic candidate-apparent, Jay Nixon -- will face more tough issues.

Among the top contenders -- and among the strongest -- are three elected officials with solid records from Southeast Missouri: Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder of Cape Girardeau; House Speaker Rod Jetton of Marble Hill, Mo.; and U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson of Cape Girardeau.

It will take awhile for Republicans to shake out the strongest candidates. We expect the three we know best will be among those given serious consideration.

-- Southeast Missourian