On Nixon

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Nick Ehrhard – The Maneater

At the end of October, The Maneater’s editorial board gathered on a lazy Saturday afternoon to discuss, argue, decide and ultimately endorse our preferred candidates for the following week’s election. The conversations were spirited and occasionally fiery, and while we ultimately realized that we most likely wouldn’t be swaying any voters’ minds on the most important race, we attempted to cover as many of the main issues as possible and develop our editorial opinion carefully.

You can read which candidates we threw our weight behind here, here and here. Obama, McCaskill, Schaefer. Those races were all critical in their own ways, but arguably a fourth race stood out in importance to us as students at MU.

The main reason I registered to vote in Boone County instead of back home in Madison County, Ill., is that Illinois really can’t hold a candle to how interesting Missouri politics tends to be, especially in election years. It’s usually, if not always a major swing state in the presidential race. Todd Akin sabotaged his campaign with his controversial and much reported-on comments in August. (Had that story not blown up like it did, it seems like he could have waltzed into McCaskill’s Senate seat.)

Gov. Jay Nixon was also up for re-election. In his first term, the democrat had a tense relationship with the student body at MU, twice cutting higher education funding in the state in the name of keeping the budget balanced without raising taxes, one of the major planks of his platform. Granted, he kept his promise, but as an editorial board representing “the student voice of MU,” we as a group had a difficult time supporting a candidate who seemed to put higher ed at the top of the chopping block. We all had our reservations about another term of cuts, and our endorsement for Nixon was lukewarm at best.

Monday night I headed down to Jefferson City to cover Nixon’s first State of the State address of his second term. I expected much of the same – no new taxes, a balanced budget and a moderate governor. What we got was a proposed $150 million boost to education in the state, including $34 million for higher ed funding.

Nixon’s tone wasn’t too far off from President Obama’s in his Inaugural Address earlier this month. Progressive, aggressive, and agenda setting. He called for the increase of education funding. He called for a federal-backed expansion of Medicaid. He demanded campaign finance reform. Nixon certainly didn’t seem as flaccid as he did at times in his first term.

I’m not sure if the tone of his speech/budget was caused by the fact that, like Obama, this is Nixon’s last term (Missouri governors are limited to two terms), or because he’s already being talked about as a possible presidential hopeful for the democrats in 2016. Whatever the reason, he certainly nailed a few points that made us so tepid on him in the first place.

Putting higher education and health care at the forefront of his budget were crucial, and did not go unnoticed. As a college student, I appreciate his emphasis on higher education and scholarship funding. The budget still needs to be approved by a Republican-controlled legislature, but last night’s address was an interesting first step for a midwest governor who may be making a run for Washington in a few years.

You can read my reporting on Nixon’s address here.

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