Sen. Roy Blunt said the decision to run for a Senate term is an eight-year decision, with two years running for office, followed by six years in office if successful.
He decided not to make that commitment for a third time.
“It’s the longest decision you make in politics,” Blunt, 71, said in a Friday morning phone interview from Washington, D.C. “I decided, one, it’s going to be a great year for Republicans (in 2022). I also think it is a year I am likely to be replaced by someone I am largely in agreement with. That adds to the numbers that build a majority in the Senate. We’ve got a great group of candidates available to run. I’m not sure how that will all sort out, but that’s part of it.”
There also was the decision of whether Blunt wanted to spend his 70s in the Senate, where Blunt was elected in 2010 to replace Sen. Kit Bond. “I decided ‘no,’ ” Blunt said.
More to Do
Blunt takes pride in the many things he’s worked on in Washington and Franklin County and looks forward to continuing the work.
“Health care research and mental health equity, that bridge we worked on right there on the river in Washington,” he said. “The importance of having people ready for jobs, with the industrial park right there in Washington. It’s always moving in a good direction, but we need to be sure we get people ready for jobs. I believe it’s an exciting time.
“I’m leaving grateful and optimistic. I’m not leaving because I don’t like this work,” he said. “I like it a lot, but you can’t do it forever. And 26 years in the Congress and 20 years as an elected official before that probably should be enough to satisfy even the neediest politician.”
A Memorable Year
Blunt’s decision comes about a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was followed by racial unrest and a contentious election. He is now the Republican ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee after chairing that committee from April 2018 until Feb. 3, 2021.
“I love to be out and be around the state. I may have been in every county in the state more than any other living politician,” he said. “And last year really disrupted the way that I do that. At the same time, chairing the committee that runs health care research and the National Institutes of Health put me very much in the middle of this effort to try to find better testing quickly and to see if we could set a new record in terms of coming up with the vaccine, which we clearly did. So an incredibly busy year for me but a dramatically different year at the same time.”
Blunt also chaired the U.S. Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, which gave him a prominent speaking role at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. The event came after former President Donald Trump’s repeated challenges to the election results and riots at the U.S. Capitol.
Blunt was one of the four members of Congress who counted electoral votes, along with then-Vice President Mike Pence. “And two impeachments,” he added. “It did seem like there was always another thing right in front of you that almost never happens. But it was happening in 2020 and the early weeks of 2021.”
One of Two
Before being elected to the Senate in 2010, Blunt served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he represented southwest Missouri. Blunt served as the Republican’s whip from 2003 to 2009.
Along with former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, Blunt is one of only two people in U.S. history elected to House and Senate leadership.
“It may not be a very smart thing to do, but it is a unique thing,” Blunt said with a laugh. “One of the things I brought to the Senate and still will for another two years is the ability to be a county official, which, of course, (former Missourian Publisher) Bill Miller always was impressed by, to have been a state official and to have been a leader in the House and a leader in the Senate. It did create a point of view that nobody else in the Senate had.”
It’s too early to think about what to do in retirement, Blunt said.
“Many of the people I work for will think I’m no longer in the job just because this decision gets so much attention, but I’m going to be there for almost two full years,” he said. “I’ve had a job to go to every day since I was 17 years old, so the idea of not working is not something that will work very well for me.”
Blunt said he looks forward to being able to get back to Washington, Missouri.
“It’s one of my very favorite towns in Missouri,” he said. “And just the relationship with the paper has always been good. I think the first time or two I came by in about 1980, the senior Mr. Miller was still there, and I have a vision of him sitting at his Underwood typewriter with his hat on typing out a story. I’ve gone up those stairs a lot of times and had lots of great conversations with the people there. I’m very fond of the community. I think it’s an example of a community that’s figured out how to do so many things right.”
Who is Next?
Among the Republicans who have expressed interest in running for Blunt’s post are Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe and Attorney General Eric Schmitt, as well as former Gov. Eric Greitens and U.S. Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, Billy Long, R-Springfield, Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville and Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin.
The Congress members would have to give up their seats if they seek Blunt’s position, while Kehoe and Schmitt would be able to remain in office.
Democrats who have said they are running include former state Sen. Scott Sifton and Lucas Kunce, a former Marine Corps officer, veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and national security director at the American Economic Liberties Project, and LGBTQ activist and attorney Tim Shepherd.
Other Democrats who have been mentioned include former Gov. Jay Nixon, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and state Sen. Brian Williams, D-University City.
Those who have said they won’t run include Gov. Mike Parson and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.
In his March 8 video announcement, Blunt touted the things he feels he has accomplished with his almost 12,000 votes in Congress.
Among those feats, Blunt said he has helped advance “health research on cancer and Alzheimer’s — and on diseases you may only know about if someone in your family has it. ... It’s made mental health more likely to be treated like all other health.”
He continued, “I’ve worked for things that can produce a better prepared workforce. And where we live — when you combine that with transportation systems that work, utility bills families can pay and no more government regulations than we have to have — good, family-supporting jobs follow.”
He also expanded apprenticeship program funding and helped secure federal funding for six multimillion-dollar capital investment projects, including the $81.2 million to replace the Rocheport bridge on Interstate 70 over the Missouri River and a $10 million grant to replace the Champ Clark Bridge over the Mississippi River at Louisiana.
- Editor Ethan Colbert contributed to this story.