Wheels of fortune spin for KC area politicians
The Kansas City Star
It’s that time of year when we take stock.
No, not of the market, although that is always worth watching.
But the fortunes and misfortunes of our region’s leaders are just as volatile and interesting and they are the topic of the day.
Large and In Charge
Sam Brownback. Critics can question the Kansas governor’s policies and tactics, but not his effectiveness. He got nearly everything he wanted in 2012, including his dream Legislature, and is poised to shoot for more in 2013.
Sly James. Kansas City’s mayor is thriving in the job. He makes things happen for Kansas City. As he approaches the halfway mark of his first term, James should use his creativity and considerable popularity to help find a way to reduce gun violence, and to halt decay in east side neighborhoods.
Tim Jones. Kansas Citians don’t know much about the politician from the St. Louis area who is Missouri’s House speaker. But as leader of the huge Republican majority, Jones has as much power as anyone in Missouri government. We’ll see how he uses it.
Make or Break Time
Jay Nixon. Missouri’s Democratic governor appears to have finally found his Big Cause — expansion of Medicaid limits. Getting this done over Republican reluctance would redeem Nixon’s standing among the state’s Democrats, and give him a solid political achievement to take into future campaigns.
Mike Sanders. The Jackson County executive is as capable and hard-working a public servant as you’ll find. But you know he wants to be remembered for more than just competence. This would be the year to get that commuter rail line off and running.
Kevin Yoder. The Congressman from Johnson County didn’t exactly distinguish himself in his freshman term, what with that skinny-dipping incident in the Sea of Galilee. He needs to regain his gravitas, and define himself as more than just another tea party-voting Republican.
Missing in Action
Women political leaders. Where have they gone? Not long ago, women wielded clout as mayors of the region’s largest cities and as top leaders of Jackson and Johnson counties. Now, with the exceptions of Jean Peters Baker as Jackson County prosecutor and Pam Mason as Clay County presiding commissioner, they are hard to find in top roles. One bright spot: Jolie Justus of Kansas City will be influential in Jefferson City as the Senate minority leader.
Sam Graves. Just where was the Congressman from the 6th District when the House took the “fiscal cliff” vote? Graves’ official explanation — “I was detained” — covers a lot of territory. For the record, Graves’ voting attendance for 2012 was in respectable 96 percent territory. But sometimes it’s the one you miss by which you’ll be remembered.
Claire McCaskill. The Democratic U.S. senator was never as endangered as the pundits made her out to be. McCaskill understands Missouri and knew what she needed to do to win, even without a hefty assist from her Republican opponent, Todd Akin. Still, a 16-point win is a big deal.
Peter Kinder. It’s never great for one’s political career to be photographed with a stripper in a bawdy nightclub. But Missouri’s venerable Republican lieutenant governor survived that, plus a primary challenge from a well-financed opponent, plus a general election race against a former state auditor to win a third term. He’s now eyeing the congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson.
Down and Out
Kansas moderate Republicans. They were routed in the August primary, as Brownback’s political machine kicked into high gear to elect conservatives. And given our polarized political climate, they may not be coming back. Ever.
Dave Spence and John Brunner. Who? Our point, exactly. These are the GOP business types who ran in Missouri for the governor’s office and U.S. Senate, respectively. It’s just hard to make the leap from the executive offices to the campaign trail.
Todd Akin. See above mention of Claire McCaskill.
As usual, I conclude with the laws of political gravity. What is up usually comes down, what’s down often (but not always) bounces back up, and what goes around inevitably comes back around.
To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @bshelly.