Saint Louis, Mo. — A string of victories, big and small, may be helping Gov. Jay Nixon him regain momentum after arguably his most trying year as governor.
The last half of 2014 included the death of Michael Brown and the subsequent riots, a tough veto session where the legislature overrode many of his vetoes, and the year ended with Republican majorities being re-elected, but this time with supermajorities in both chambers.
However, 2015 has been a different story, and last week’s veto of the Right-to-Work legislation is just one in a string of moves that is giving Nixon a chance to go on the offensive.
Opponents of RTW believe Nixon’s veto will be upheld, giving the Democrat a chance to travel the state, alongside working middle class workers and highlight his support for “working class families.” It’s a campaign that will likely earn Nixon some good press, and some good will from his fellow Democrats with whom he suffered some strained relations last year.
“I’m glad to see the governor out front on this issue for all of Missouri’s working families,” said AFL-CIO President, Mike Louis. “The fact that the governor has positioned himself on the side of Missouri workers and his commitment to fight this battle is showing tremendous support for all of us.”
It’s also worth noting that despite massive supermajorities in both chambers, Nixon survived the 2015 legislative session with no significant tax cut on his desk, an important win for a governor who has already had to spend an entire summer barnstorming around the state to rally support for a tax cut veto.
Of course, not everyone agrees. Long time republican consultant David Barklage told viewers during his appearance on This Week in Missouri Politics that Nixon’s veto and subsequent campaign was standard operating procedure for Democrats and that the second term governor has lost too much ground for a significant groundswell.
“The only weeks Nixon has that are good weeks are weeks that he’s just doing nothing and saying no,” Barklage said.
However, earlier this spring it was Nixon’s Public Service Commission that forged a compromise on electric rates and saved 900 jobs in Missouri’s bootheel. A commission made up entirely of his appointees all-but-guaranteed the 900 employees would keep their jobs at the Noranda aluminum smelter in New Madrid with only Democrat Steve Stoll of Jefferson County siding with Lt. Governor Peter Kinder in opposing the accomplishment.
Then, there’s school transfers. After vetoing last year’s bill over what he called the “private option,” Nixon appears to be zeroing in on a win on that front as well. Lawmakers yanked the private option from this year’s version and the governor’s position on the bill played a major role in the final product lawmakers put on his desk that many feel will be signed.
Nixon has always been successful at reaching across the aisle to accomplish the nuts and bolts of administering government, and this year, he seems poised to sign legislation ranging from large reform like SB 5 on municipal reform sponsored by conservative state Senator Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale), and other smaller administrative matters like HB 613 which streamlines property tax collection sponsored by the equally as conservative Rep. Sandy Crawford (R-129).
2016 is increasingly on the minds of the state’s politicos, and if the conventional wisdom holds that presidential election years are better for Missouri Democrats, Nixon is now helping a party position itself to run next year on a series of victories focused on jobs and wages.
Presumed Democratic nominee for governor, Attorney General Chris Koster was quick to offer praise of his RTW veto with a series of tweets:
Just minutes after vetoing RTW in St. Louis, Nixon came out in support of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay’s own plan to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020.
Nixon is always going to face stiff challenges while serving as a Democratic governor with an extremely unpopular Democratic president was in office, and new House Speaker Todd Richardson may prove to be his most challenging opponent yet, but Nixon seems to be moving forward and regaining his momentum heading into his final year in office.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.