Government & Politics

Steve Kraske: Jay Nixon’s political stock just swirled down the drain

Jay Nixon can cancel any more trips to Iowa.

And a cabinet post in a Hillary Clinton presidency? Forgetaboutit.

In a 27-year political career highlighted by two easy wins for the state’s highest office, the Missouri governor now stares at road’s end.

His handling of the Ferguson crisis set the stage for the ugly repudiation he was forced to endure in Jefferson City from members of both parties.

Dozens of Nixon vetoes were overturned. Tens of millions of dollars in spending were approved over his objection. More so than ever, Republicans asserted their dominance over what clearly now is a lame-duck governor.

The week saw something else. Nixon was thrashed by state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal of his own party in a way that governors are rarely talked to on the floor of the state Senate.

“You’re a coward,” Chappelle-Nadal, who represents parts of Ferguson, said during an astonishing, hourlong rebuke. “You’ve been in office for decades, and you’ve done nothing for black people. Nothing.”

Listen: Chappelle-Nadal is a loose cannon, and she’s been shredding Nixon for weeks. But that Nixon can’t find a way to ease the resentment speaks volumes about his standing with African-Americans and his relations with lawmakers.

Also this week, another Democrat, retiring state Rep. Chris Kelly of Columbia, added his own damning coda, saying Nixon “only understands two relationships — slave and enemy.”

What’s happened the five weeks since Michael Brown’s death is a coming home to roost of so many Nixon shortcomings: his lousy relations with black residents that go back decades; his persistent me-first approach to politics and his steadfast refusal to offer more political help to his fellow Democrats; and his ongoing resistance to weighing in more actively on legislation when lawmakers are in town.

In his time of need in this week’s veto session, Nixon went looking for friends and found none.

Nixon apparently had felt no need. His formula was working marvelously. He was re-elected in a 12-point landslide. He felt secure enough to flirt with a presidential run. He listened as D.C. insiders listed Nixon as cabinet material.

Not now. Nixon is now known as that governor out in the heartland who couldn’t get that Ferguson deal under control. After so carefully building a legacy as a successful Democratic governor in a state dominated by GOP lawmakers, Nixon has seen it trashed.

Politics can be cruel. There will be no Iowas for Jay Nixon.

To reach Steve Kraske, call 816-234-4312 or send email to skraske@kcstar.com.

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