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Columbia Missourian

Rod Jetton considering governor race

By REBECCA BEITSCH and BRIA SCUDDER
January 24, 2008 | 9:41 p.m. CST
House Speaker Rod Jetton

JEFFERSON CITY — Another major Missouri Republican has joined the ranks of those confirming an interest in the job that Gov. Matt Blunt announced Tuesday he would not seek to retain.

House Speaker Rod Jetton said Thursday he is considering an entrance into the gubernatorial race. Jetton said his decision is pending a discussion with his family and any plans from former U.S. Senator Jim Talent and U.S. Representative Kenny Hulshof.

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The Marble Hill Republican stressed that his wife, whom he described as shy and not political, could present him with an insurmountable barrier.

“She’s not too excited about it now,” Jetton acknowledged. “If my wife is supportive of it, then yes. That’s really the determining factor for me.”

While describing his interest in the campaign and his confidence for entering the race, Jetton also talked at length about his wife’s own interests in the political process with unusual candor.

“She’s just not into politics that much,” Jetton told reporters at his weekly Thursday briefing. “She doesn’t watch the news much. She can tell you who is getting voted off Survivor.”

Jetton, however, sounded like a confident candidate. “If I can sell her, I can sell anybody.”

Jetton is the third Republican to publicly say he is considering the race. Within hours of Blunt’s Tuesday afternoon announcement, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder issued a statement all but declaring his candidacy. The next day, State Treasurer Sarah Steelman issued a statement that she was looking into the race.

House Speaker Pro Tem Bryan Pratt said that he would strongly support Jetton’s candidacy and boasted on Jetton’s leadership skills. “Even with Lt. Gov. Kinder and Sarah Steelman entering the race I would throw my support behind Rod Jetton,” he said. “You will find that House members will often support other House members.”

Representative Kenny Jones R-Calif. said, “He knows what we’ve done, and he knows where we need to go, so I think he would be an excellent candidate for governor,” adding that he was a traditional conservative who would represent the party well.

Jetton said he thinks he is the most knowledgeable on Medicaid, the health care program that the governor cut in the first year of his administration.

“Nobody in this state probably understands Medicaid cuts better than me,” Jetton said, adding he would look forward to debating Attorney General Jay Nixon on Medicaid, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.

“I’ll win that debate any day of the week,” he said.

“Jay Nixon is a good guy. I know him, and I played on the Capital Domes basketball team when I was a freshman, and he was our coach. They didn’t play me much. I wasn’t very good,” Jetton said.

Besides his wife’s approval, Jetton said his decision also depends on whether Talent or Hulshof enter the race.

“Jim Talent to me is one of the best people I’ve ever met in politics.” He echoed similar views about Hulshof.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party repeated what Nixon voiced Wednesday — whoever replaces Blunt as the GOP candidate will not affect the issues. In a Thursday press release, Democratic Spokesperson Jack Cardetti accused the potential Republican candidates as being “lock-step with the Blunt-Bush agenda.”

“At a time when Missourians are looking for a governor who will change the direction of our state, it’s hard to believe the Republicans are putting forward a group of candidates who represent more of the same,” Cardetti said.