Jo Mannies

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter.  She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

Nine years ago, Chris Koster was a state senator, a former Cass County prosecutor and a rising star within the Missouri Republican Party. Many speculated he would eventually run for governor.

And now he is running for governor, but as a Democrat.

Koster switched parties in 2007,  a stunning move that has set the course for his unusual political career.  He remains the highest-profile politician in Missouri, at least in modern times, to have made such a move

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, the Democratic nominee for governor, says he’s doing no more debates with Republican Eric Greitens unless Greitens releases his tax returns.

Koster made public his last four years of returns last week.

Greitens says he’s keeping his returns private, and he accuses Koster of backing out of any more debates because he’s “running scared’’ after their only joint appearance last week.

UPDATED: Democratic leaders in the Missouri House are suggesting that likely state representative-elect Steve Roberts Jr. reconsider taking the post in the wake of sexual assault allegations leveled against him by a fellow new legislator, Cora Faith Walker.

Roberts and Walker are both St. Louis-area Democrats who in August won their respective primaries in the 77th and 74th districts. They face no opponents in the November election.

Amid dueling news conferences held in the same building, Missouri’s two major candidates for governor are accusing each other of giving short-shrift to women, especially when it comes to sex trafficking and domestic violence.

Both candidates – Democrat Chris Koster and Republican Eric Greitens – were accused of displaying poor judgment on women’s issues and of accepting money from donors with questionable character when it comes to the treatment of women.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and his Democratic rival, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, stuck to their long-standing playbooks of pitches and attacks during their first – and possibly, only – joint appearance on the same stage.

They were among five U.S. Senate contenders on stage at Friday’s forum in Branson sponsored by the Missouri Press Association. 

Although Kander has accepted two other debate invitations, Blunt so far has not.

Eric Greitens, the victor of Missouri’s four-way Republican battle for governor, spent just over $10 million to win his party’s nomination.

The final campaign-finance reports for the Aug. 2 primary, due Thursday, show the four spent a combined total of $27.1 million — a record in Missouri for a statewide primary contest. The final spending almost mirrored the candidates’ election finish.

Missouri’s already nationally watched contest for the U.S. Senate is getting swept into the St. Louis region’s latest spat of vote-related woes — including the current court fight over absentee ballots cast in the Aug. 2 primary for a legislative seat whose boundaries are within the city of St. Louis.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., has been running a TV ad that seeks to tie those controversies to how his Democratic rival, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, has performed his job. Blunt also has raised general questions about Kander’s performance during his recent campaign stops.

Kander has pushed back.

As St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay sees it, the crowd that packed Hillary Clinton’s new local office Tuesday night could help persuade her Democratic presidential campaign to direct more attention — and resources to Missouri.

Win or lose, such action could help the state’s entire Democratic ticket.

“We need to show the support is here, to pull her over the top,’’ Slay told reporters, shortly before addressing the shoulder-to-shoulder audience that spilled onto the sidewalk outside the Clinton campaign office at 4039 Lindell Blvd.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has tapped two veteran GOP operatives to head up his state operation.

Aaron Willard, who has held several key posts in the Republican-controlled General Assembly, is Trump’s new state director. Todd Abrajano, a consultant with similar GOP ties, is to serve as Trump’s communications director.

With time slipping away, Missouri’s four Republican candidates are heightening their attacks — in person and in their ads — as they head into the final stretch before the Aug. 2 primary.

By even their own accounts, Wednesday’s debate at St. Louis Public Radio’s studio – and broadcast by public radio stations around the state — appeared to be their liveliest. And the nastiest.

On July 6, St. Louis Public Radio will host a live debate with the Missouri candidates running to become the GOP candidate-of-choice in the August 2 primary for governor.

A few months ago, Starsky Wilson ended his time on the Ferguson Commission with stirring and strong words for politicians who would have to do the work ahead.

“If the win for you is getting elected, we don’t need you,” said Wilson, the president and CEO of the Deaconess Foundation. “If you eat steak because you got what you wanted in the community that’s still fighting for a generation, you’re not the one.”

For his final state budget, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is taking no risks.

His proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 features no grand gestures of setting up new programs, and calls for limited increases for the state’s current operations.

Amid all the talk about the misbehavior so obviously plaguing Jefferson City, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill contends that the real issue is that little has changed.

She was an intern in the Missouri capital 41 years ago. “I am bitterly disappointed that the climate has not changed significantly since 1974,’’ the senator said, recalling her own experiences with off-color jokes and unsolicited sexual comments.

A federal appeals court has resurrected a St. Louis area legislator’s battle against the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that insurance cover birth control.

Last year, a lower court had tossed out state Sen. Paul Wieland’s suit against several federal agencies over the requirement. But the federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in St. Louis, ruled Monday that Wieland’s suit can proceed.

The latest campaign-finance report for Attorney General Chris Koster, the only major Missouri Democratic candidate for governor, shows that he continues to outraise his 2016 rivals on both parties.

Koster reports almost $4 million in the bank after raising almost a $1 million during past three months. Both tallies are more than those reported by any of the Republicans – including likely candidate Eric Greitens, who appears to have the most momentum on the GOP side.

With the state of Missouri’s budget challenges easing, state budget chief Linda Luebbering has decided that it’s time to retire.

That announcement, made Wednesday by Gov. Jay Nixon, sent shock waves through the state Capitol, where Luebbering long has been known for her candor and accessibility.

Only one major piece of legislation passed the Missouri General Assembly during its final day of the 2015 session, capping a surreal and strange week that saw the House speaker resign and the Senate paralyzed.

After days of delay, both chambers found time Friday to swiftly approve a must-pass bill necessary for the state to accept its annual $3.5 billion in federal money to pay for the existing Medicaid program and related health care expenses.

(Updated 11 a.m. Friday, May 15) Missouri Rep. Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, was elected and sworn in as new House speaker Friday, and swiftly got the House back to the business at hand — passing bills in the final hours of a surreal last week of session.

"This is not the time for speeches,'' Richardson said, ending tumultuous applause from the packed chamber. "This is a time to get back to work."

Updated 1:40 p.m. Thurs, May 14: Missouri House Speaker John Diehl, R-Town and Country, has announced he's resigning as speaker and as a member of the Missouri House.

His statement was issued less than 28 hours after news broke that he had been exchanging sexually salacious texts with a college-age female intern earlier this spring.

Diehl's statement does not say, however, when he will step down. The General Assembly's legislative session officially ends at 6 p.m. Friday. State Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, told reporters the House's GOP caucus will select a new speaker tonight.

(Updated, 1 p.m. Tues., May 12) Just days before the General Assembly must adjourn, all other legislative issues are being held hostage while the Missouri Senate debates the hottest issue of the session: an anti-union bill known as “right to work.”

The Senate took up the bill Tuesday morning, after a committee voted 5-3 late Monday to send the measure to the floor.  Opponents quickly launched into a filibuster.

First, one thing needs to be made clear: Missouri is no longer a presidential bellwether state. The state’s voters haven’t sided with the national victor since 2004.

As a result, as more candidates announce their 2016 presidential bids, many activists in both major parties predict Missouri won’t be a battleground state this time, either.

Before shooting himself, Spence Jackson, spokesman for the Missouri auditor, tried to make clear why he was ending his life.

Wrote Spence in a note: "I'm so sorry; I just can't take being unemployed again.”

The note was dated "3-27-15" at the top.

His words were made public Tuesday by Jefferson City police Capt. Doug Shoemaker, who disclosed the preliminary results of the probe into Jackson’s apparent suicide.

Retired U.S. Sen. John Danforth  is blaming Missouri’s nasty political climate – and an alleged anti-Semitic “whispering campaign” -- for  state Auditor Tom Schweich’s suicide, and he is calling on officials in both parties to “make Tom’s death a turning point in our state.”

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has named longtime aide John Watson as the state’s interim state auditor, until the governor can appoint a permanent replacement to state Auditor Tom Schweich, who committed suicide on Thursday.

Nixon said in a statement Friday that he was putting Watson temporarily in charge of the auditor’s office in order to comply with the state constitution’s requirement that the governor “immediately appoint’’ a replacement should the auditor’s post become vacant.  

(Updated 5:10 p.m.)

Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich has died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, shocking the state’s political world and throwing turmoil into the state’s 2016 contest for governor.

Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich launched his campaign for governor by lashing out at the man who he says is a symbol of the “rampant corruption” in the state Capitol -- wealthy financier Rex Sinquefield.

Schweich said that Sinquefield, the state’s top political donor, has been engaging in “corrosive tactics’’ with “an army of mercenaries.’’  Their aim, he said, is to advance proposals – such as the elimination of Missouri’s income tax and replacing it with a huge sales tax -- that he says would help the wealthy but hurt small business and middle-class Missourians.

A former basketball player himself, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon used the sport Wednesday to illustrate ways that the state can advance racial healing as it seeks to get beyond the months of protests prompted by last summer’s police shooting in Ferguson.

In Wednesday’s State of the State address, the governor recounted how Highway Patrol officers assigned to keep order pooled some of their own money to pay for a basketball net and new basketball. That generosity, Nixon said, later led to a pickup basketball game.

jimmywayne / Flickr

With more than 500 bills pre-filed so far, the Missouri General Assembly will be facing a variety of issues – from school transfers to ethics — when its 197 members return to Jefferson City this week.

But compared to recent legislative sessions, legislative leaders have so far sent few signals as to which bills will get serious consideration and which ones will simply serve as political wallpaper.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is calling for state highway officials to examine the possibility of imposing tolls on parts of Interstate 70 – and to report back to him before the end of this month.

In a letter sent Tuesday, the governor told the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission that he wanted them to report by Dec. 31 on “analyzing and providing options for utilizing tolls to improve and expand I-70 and to free up resources for road and bridge projects throughout the state.”

Nixon noted that the newest parts of I-70 in Missouri “are 50 years old.”