Gary Grigsby needed just 471 votes. Paul Quinn needed 583. For Mark Ellebracht, the magic number was 214.
All are Democrats who needed just a nudge from a popular governor like Jay Nixon to put them over the top in their state representative races in 2012.
Kevin Morgan of Excelsior Springs isn’t convinced that a little help would have pushed him to a win. He lost by 3,000 votes. But he knows this: “It would have made a big difference.”
Morgan got no photos with the governor. No endorsement mailings. No donations from a Nixon campaign that raised $16.1 million that year. Zippo.
“Blind alley,” Morgan said. “Nobody home.”
Nixon wound up winning in a landslide. Now, for the second straight year, he faces the prospect of lawmakers overriding his expected veto of a major tax cut that threatens his legacy.
The vote on that override will be close, hinging on a handful of lawmakers. Most are Republicans, and at least a few might not be in office today had Nixon been a little more generous in 2012.
Nixon threw a party that year, all right. But he didn’t invite any friends. He got re-elected, sure, but he failed to put himself in a position to protect the programs he considers most crucial. Helping a few more Democrats would have provided him the political insurance policy he now so desperately needs — a legislature with enough Democrats to fight off overrides.
All this begins to explain why Nixon was so worked up when he visited Kansas City this week in a bid to build momentum against the tax cut. I’ve never seen a governor so worked up.
The tax cut bill contains language that could virtually eliminate state income taxes at a cost of $4.8 billion, Nixon charged. That would have “cataclysmic” consequences, a “staggering” impact.
Republicans accused Nixon of overreach. But the bill, as written, could result in the Revenue Department interpreting the law. Almost certainly, the matter would end up in court — with $4.8 billion hanging in the balance.
Even if Nixon succeeds in killing the current measure, Republicans have time this session to revise it, putting the governor in the same jam.
He has no one to blame but himself. In 2012, he could have done more.
Morgan gets that Nixon sold himself as a different sort of politician who is not ideologically driven. He has a tough Republican legislature to deal with. Any pol wants a big re-election win.
But a more engaged Nixon would have put 10 more D’s into House seats, he said.
“He’s looking out for himself.”