Republican Sen. Roy Blunt has been a fixture in Missouri politics for more than 30 years. His experience and knowledge gained during his time as secretary of state, congressman and senator would be considered assets in most election years.
But it is his lengthy tenure in Washington — nearly 20 years — that could be Blunt’s greatest vulnerability in a year when being an outsider has been valuable for challengers.
Democrat Jason Kander has hammered Blunt relentlessly for what allegedly has happened to Blunt after 20 years in Washington. Kander claims Blunt has lost touch with Missouri’s values, has become too close to Washington insiders, and by working the system to his own advantage is far removed from the reform-minded southwest Missourian who earned praise from Democrats and Republicans for his work as secretary of state.
Kander is an energetic challenger. With his impressive military record, eight years ago he won a state representative seat in Kansas City and then, in what appeared to be a brash move at the time, he sought the office of secretary of state that he won four years ago. It was considered unrealistic two years ago when Kander decided to take on the veteran Blunt. But in a chaotic election year, Kander’s lack of Washington experience has given him strong momentum.
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Kander is in a hurry, and he will go places. But he has not demonstrated he deserves to go to Washington now instead of Blunt.
We have disagreed with Blunt on issues in the past, but each election should involve comparing the overall record of each candidate against the other. In this case, Blunt’s accomplishments outweigh the challenger’s promise.
Blunt knows how to get things done. And he does them for the benefit of the Missourians he represents.
Blunt’s work was crucial in passage of the five-year highway bill that authorizes $305 billion for highways, mass transit, hazardous materials handling and passenger rail programs. Missouri gets $5.5 billion of that total, creating thousands of well-paying jobs.
Blunt crafted key sections of that bill that will pay for off-system bridges, which describes 52 percent of Missouri’s spans. Other Blunt provisions would reform the permitting process for rail projects, encourage more competition in passenger rail service, and in a bill co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, provide for reliability of the electric power grid.
Blunt and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio co-sponsored the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act in 2013. The measure establishes a Network for Manufacturing Innovation and will assist Missouri manufacturing companies.
Blunt and Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, co-sponsored the Victims of Child Abuse Reauthorization Act in 2013. This law restores funding to provide a safe haven for child abuse victims and help law enforcement hold perpetrators accountable. There are 22 Child Advocacy Centers in Missouri that will be helped by this initiative.
Blunt and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, co-sponsored the Excellence in Mental Health Act to expand access to community mental health services and strengthen the quality of care for those living with mental illness. The bill, supported by more than 50 mental health, veterans and law enforcement organizations, marks the most significant progress in the field in decades.
Blunt introduced the bipartisan Hire More Heroes Act, which eliminates federal red tape while encouraging companies to hire more American veterans. Blunt, who has received the Veterans of Foreign Wars lifetime achievement award, is a member of the bipartisan Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus, which is committed to helping veterans find well-paying jobs as civilians.
Blunt and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, gained Senate passage of the Military Family Stability Act, which permits military families to move early or remain at their current duty station for up to six months while their spouse begins a new assignment.
Blunt gained a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health this fiscal year, the largest funding increase in more than 10 years. Blunt has proposed an additional $2 billion increase in the pending 2017 bill.
Blunt included provisions in the New Markets Tax Credit Extension Act to authorize allocation of $3.5 billion of new markets tax credits for each year from 2015 through 2019. This program encourages private investment in low-income rural and urban areas and helped create nearly 18,000 Missouri jobs between 2003 and 2012.
Blunt joined Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota and Stabenow in introducing the Charitable Agricultural Research Act to encourage the creation of public-private partnerships to increase overall agricultural research funding and encourage innovation.
Blunt worked across the aisle, and with House members, to gain passage of the Water Resources Development Act that authorizes flood control and other water infrastructure projects across the country. That act will pour millions of dollars into Missouri for high-paying jobs as crucial infrastructure is built or refurbished.
This year, with his campaign looming and partisan sensitivities on high alert all over Capitol Hill, Blunt successfully negotiated federal authorization for a $1.1 billion expenditure to combat the Zika virus.
Blunt cosponsored the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act to combat the opioid epidemic. He secured a 93 percent increase this year in the bipartisan funding bill for programs that increased resources for prescription drug overdose programs, medication-assisted treatment and treatment programs through 9,000 community health delivery sites nationwide.
For years, Blunt worked with prominent Democrats seeking to ensure that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency decided to build it new west headquarters in North St. Louis, instead of in Illinois. That decision kept thousands of jobs the agency supports in Missouri and promises to help revitalize that urban area.
Republicans generally don’t win many votes in urban centers, but African-American ministers are cutting radio endorsements of Blunt in both Kansas City and St. Louis. In Kansas City, the Rev. John Modest Miles praises Blunt’s assistance with funding for the $3.6 million Morningstar Youth and Family Life Center at 27th Street and Prospect Avenue. Miles also credits Blunt for working with city leaders in placing the Kansas City Police Department’s new East Patrol Division and crime lab near Prospect Avenue and East 27th Street.
For the six years he has been in the Senate, Blunt has been in the Kansas City community working to bring in jobs and help attract funding for development, Miles says.
The Rev. Charles J. Brown in St. Louis praises Blunt for working across party lines to help keep the Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in St. Louis. Brown says Blunt’s work to increase funding for mental health and trying to keep utility bills down merit re-election.
Blunt is undeniably conservative. On such issues as opposing abortion, supporting gun rights, seeking lower taxes and opposing the Affordable Care Act, he has been in tune with the majority of Missourians over the last few years.
But at heart, Blunt is a problem-solver. And in a Washington where far too many things end up in partisan gridlock, Blunt has a record of finding workable solutions that can be embraced by people with different backgrounds and persuasions.
Contrary to the heated rhetoric of the campaign, he has not forgotten his roots. He has traveled to all 114 Missouri counties and the city of St. Louis at least three times and many places multiple times since he first ran for this Senate seat. He has held more than 1,600 separate events in the state, and not just in an election year.
He listens to Missourians, and he translates their concerns into concrete solutions.
Three minor-party candidates are also on the ballot.