Missouri Governor Wins Plaudits for Disaster Response
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
On April 22, a tornado with 165-mph winds struck St. Louis, damaging hundreds of homes, closing the city's airport and leaving tens of thousands of people without power. Ten days later, severe flooding along the Mississippi threatened an Illinois town downriver, forcing the Army Corps of Engineers to detonate a levee and send 550,000 cubic feet of water rushing into Missouri farmland. Then, on May 22, the nation's deadliest tornado in six decades struck the town of Joplin, Missouri, killing 116 people and leaving a trail of obliterated buildings in its wake.
Nixon, The Associated Press notes , has taken an active role in response to each of the disasters. The governor, AP reports, "has been on the ground quickly to survey damage and assure residents of forthcoming aid. He's intervened when local response efforts bogged down. And he's returned again and again to disaster scenes — particularly to the tornado-struck city of Joplin — to guide the state's response and recovery efforts."
According to records obtained by the AP, Nixon was in Joplin every day for a full week after the tornado, spending at least 14 of 21 days there in the first three weeks after the disaster. In the process, the governor postponed signing legislation from the recently concluded legislative session and delayed fundraisers for his reelection campaign next year, when the Democratic incumbent is expected to take on Republican Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder.
The intense focus on disaster recovery has won Nixon praise from both Democrats and Republicans. And, as the AP notes, it also could be a benefit for him at the polls.
"Disaster management can be a high-stakes situation for chief executives," the wire service points out. "Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco took big political hits for their perceived poor response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Blanco chose not to seek re-election. Republican Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, by contrast, was generally regarded as in control of his state's Katrina recovery. He cruised to re-election and was mentioned as a potential presidential candidate before deciding earlier this year that he would not run."