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Blunt, Kander break no ground in their first faceoff

Jason Kander, left, and Roy Blunt
Carolina Hidalgo and Sen. Blunt's Flickr page

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.

Blunt, R-Mo., portrayed himself as the GOP insider who works across party lines and gets things done.  Kander painted himself as the outsider with a military past who’s out to change Washington.

Kander sought to tie Blunt to the gridlock that has paralyzed Washington. Blunt characterized Kander as part of the same Democratic mindset that includes the party’s presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Although Kander directed some jabs at Blunt, the senator preferred to lump his rival with the three third-party opponents on stage.

The key issues included:

  • Supreme Court: Blunt defended his decision not to meet with President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, calling him “a perfectly nice man’’ with an undesirable judicial record. Blunt sides with GOP leaders who say it should be up to the next president to fill the court’s vacancy. Kander pledged that he would meet with such nominees, regardless of who’s president.
  • Guns: Kander defended his TV ad that shows him assembling an assault weapon blindfolded, as well as his stance that there should be background checks so terrorists can be stopped from obtaining such weapons. Blunt cited his own NRA endorsement and said it was obvious that nobody wanted terrorists to get weapons.

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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.