MISSOURI VOTERS could likely determine control of the U.S. Senate when they cast their ballots Nov. 8.
Republicans now have a 54-46 majority, but Missouri is one of six states that have emerged as top battlegrounds that could decide whether Democrats can gain control. Democrats must pick up five seats to accomplish that, or four if they win the White House, because the vice president casts tie-breaking votes in the Senate.
Incumbent Republican Sen. Roy Blunt is locked into a surprisingly close contest with Democrat Jason Kander, Missouri's secretary of state, an impressive candidate who has tapped into an anti-Washington fervor in this election cycle.
However, experience and judgment should be viewed in a positive light when deciding who can best speak for Missouri in the U.S. Senate. Blunt is the clear choice for those who seek a strong and seasoned advocate, and we commend him to voters.
Blunt was a member of the U.S. House for 14 years before being elected to the Senate in 2010. He previously was Missouri secretary of state for two terms and spent 12 years as Greene County clerk. During those years in government, and as the former president of Southwest Baptist University, Blunt has demonstrated the ability to lead on issues that resonate with Missourians.
Blunt understands that Missouri's central location, with several major highways crisscrossing a state flanked by the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, creates huge, still untapped economic opportunities as a transportation and agricultural hub.
He has been a strong proponent of national transportation funding and priorities for Northeast Missouri. While Congress passed a five-year federal highway bill last year, he realizes the $305 billion funding level falls well short of what is necessary to adequately address the nation's infrastructure needs, and he continues to explore additional revenue sources.
Moreover, Blunt has advocated for more funding for rivers, inland ports and modernizing locks and dams, arguing that Missouri needs to take advantage of "markets that are naturally ours" with the expansion of the Panama Canal and improvements to the Port of New Orleans. He points out that world food demand is rising at such a rate that it is expected to double in the next 50 years.
Furthermore, Blunt continues to call for smaller government with fewer federal regulations to foster the business growth he says is needed to drive the U.S. economy. Reining in costs for health care and college education, issues that affect everyday families, continues to be among his priorities.
He has been an advocate for farmers in Missouri and nationwide by working to block a rule that would allow the Environmental Protection Agency to assume regulatory control over most streams, wetlands and other waters. He opposes the clean-power plan that he says will double monthly utility bills for Missourians.
In addition, as chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, Blunt has worked across party lines to increase federal funding to address the national opioid epidemic.
"Compromise is the essence of democracy," he told our editorial board.
Blunt also supports bipartisan efforts to expand Pell Grant availability to students year-round. He has successfully worked to increase federal funding for health research, particularly Alzheimer's disease, and for better treatment for those facing mental health issues.
"One in four Americans has a treatable mental health issue, and one in nine are dealing with a mental health issue that affects how they live every day," he said. "We need to treat this like all other health issues."
The 35-year-old Kander enlisted in the Army National Guard while in law school immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and later served as an intelligence officer for four months in Afghanistan. He was elected to the first of two terms in the Missouri House in 2008 and as secretary of state in 2012.
He has focused much of his campaign on improving the national conversation in Washington, D.C., a place he says is "broken in a lot of ways." He told our editorial board he will be "dedicated to ideals rather than ideology" to help break the gridlock in Congress, a stance we commend him for.
Kander and Blunt agree on many issues. Both oppose the Iranian nuclear deal and the rule that would allow the EPA to assume regulatory control over most streams, wetlands and other waters. Both support a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget and want to reduce unnecessary regulations. Both want to cut the cost of a college education, and both say they have a pro-business agenda to address job growth and stagnant wages, particularly in rural Missouri.
However, they differ on issues such as immigration, the Affordable Care Act, campaign financing reform and abortion. While Blunt has served in leadership positions in both the U.S. House and Senate, Kander has not had the opportunity to compile a legislative résumé of such depth.
Most important, Missourians must realize the votes they cast will be pivotal in determining which party controls the agenda for the U.S. Senate for the next two years.
We believe Missouri, and the nation, would be best served by the invaluable experience and steady leadership of Roy Blunt in the U.S. Senate.