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Secretary of State Campaign

October 31, 2000
By: John Sheridan
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The race for Missouri's Secretary of State features two members of Missouri's House. But they have vastly different legislative backgrounds. One is the powerful speaker of the House. The other is a freshman Republican.

Steve Gaw

JEFFERSON CITY - In December, 1995 Rep. Steve Gaw presided over a fierce legislative battle on the floor of a fourth grade classroom in Glasgow, Missouri.

The students were hotly debating what the Missouri state fish should be -- bass or catfish?

Less than a month after the debate, in January, 1995, after only four years in the House of Representatives, Rep. Gaw became speaker of the house.

But like the Glasgow fourth graders, Gaw has humble beginnings. He grew up on a small 100 acre farm just outside Moberly, Missouri where they raised cattle and horses. To pay the bills his father also worked as a printer at a nearby prison.

Until the sixth grade Gaw attended what he says might have been the last one-room schoolhouse in Missouri.

There was one teacher for all six grades.

From that one-room schoolhouse, Gaw went on to graduate from Moberly High School, and attended Northeast Missouri University, which is now Truman State, where he studied physics and sang in a choral group.

After graduating from Truman State, Gaw made the jump from physics student to law school where he graduated from the University of Missouri's Law School.

Music remains one of Gaw's passions. His father gave him a guitar when he was a boy that he still uses and says, "music is still one of my favorite things."

Gaw recently proved his love for music at his high school reunion where he played guitar and sang songs he wrote.

And while some classmates may have been surprised by Gaw's musical talents, most were not shocked by his fast rise in the legislature.

Gayle Stanley, a former classmate of Gaw's Moberly High School, said he just followed his path through government, "right on down the line," alluding to Gaw's involvement in school government.

She also noted a where-are-they-now class reunion pamphlet noted Gaw's elevated position in the Missouri legislature as, "boy did we peg that one."

But Stanley was equally impressed with Gaw's humility. She said at the reunion she addressed him as Mr. Gaw, "but Mr. Gaw shook his finger at me and said, it'll always be Steve."

Following law school Gaw went home to Moberly where he worked as a city prosecutor and volunteered on several political campaigns.

In 1992 he was elected to the House and just four years later Gaw was elected speaker. Gaw took the post under what he describes as a "dark cloud".

The former speaker, Democrat Bob Griffin, resigned under allegations of impropriety which proved to be true. He is now serving time in a Florida prison.

The party's first choice to replace Griffin as speaker had to abandon his campaign after black legislators refused to support him. That threw House Democrats into turmoil with various factions jockeying for power.

From that chaos, the then little-know Gaw emerged as a consensus candidate. One of his chief attributes was that with his short legislative record, he had not alienated any key faction in the Democratic caucus.

His most public legislative role up till then had been to serve on the five-member committee that recommended impeachment of Secretary of State Judy Moriarty.

Gaw said he was elected because he was able to communicate with both House Democrats and Republicans.

He said one of his first acts as speaker was to establish an Ethics Committee that was made up of both parties equally.

Indeed, Republicans at the time praised Gaw's selection.

In a 1996 interview with the Columbia Missourian, Jon Bennett, R-St. Charles said, "Steve will come to the table in a fair manner. I just hope he continues the spirit of reform that put him there."

Today, Bennett says Gaw did not live up to his promise of reform.

"The last couple of years he used some of the same tactics that Bob Griffin used," Bennett said, "The speaker should be a leader, not a follower and his party led him too much."

It was under Gaw's leadership that House Democrats blocked Republicans from being able to offer any amendments to a bill to allocate tobacco settlement funds.
Home Moberly
Wife Fannie, no children
Pets five Samoyed dogs, horses
Employment State Representative, D-Moberly, Speaker Missouri House and practicing attorney.
Education JD, University of Missouri

Matt Blunt

JEFFERSON CITY - For Matt Blunt, running for Missouri's secretary of state is a family tradition. For he is seeking the same office once held by his father, Roy Blunt, from 1985 to 1993.

Roy Blunt now is a U.S. congressman from Springfield.

But Matt Blunt is not a veteran polictican. Instead, he began adulthood as a Navy officer, a graduate of Annapolis.

Since leaving the Navy, he was elected a state representative from Springfield, but has only held the post just the last two years.

Because of his father, Blunt grew up around politics, and Blunt says he is proud of his heritage.

He says Blunts have lived in Missouri almost as long as it has been a state. His father's side goes back five generations, his mother's six.

Blunt's fought on both sides of the Civil War, and a grandfather served in the Navy during World War II.

Perhaps it is the Blunt family history that compelled him to attend the Naval Academy in Annaplois, Maryland, graduating with a degree in history.

But even Blunt himself can't explain why he was attracted to the military, "I just always knew I wanted to go into the military and I liked Annapolis the best so I went there," he said.

But don't confuse Blunt's inablity to articulate his reasoning for attending the Academy with a lack of effort or indecisiveness.

Richard Pemberton, Blunt's principal at Jefferson City High School said, "he seemed to have a goal in mind, and that goal was to be successful."

After graduating from Annapolis, Blunt served five years active duty in the Navy.

While on duty he was an engineer and navigator participating in a United Nations blockade of Haiti, the interdiction of Cuban migrants, and drug enforcement operations off the coast of South America.

And while Blunt has lived a charmed life, sometimes it can still go wrong.

A ship Blunt was serving on ran aground. Blunt is quick to point out that even though he was a navigator he was not directing the ship at the time.

But even accidents have a way of working out for Blunt.

The damaged ship was towed to Norfolk, Virginia where Blunt met Melanie, who is now his wife.

After Blunt left the Navy, he and Melanie lowered sails and headed back home to Missouri.

He began working for Churchill Coffee company, and was establishing a home with his new bride, when duty called again, this time from the local GOP.

Blunt still seems surprised to be office saying he wasn't looking to go into politics, but, "they asked me to run, so I ran."

Apparently he ran well enough because he was elected to the Missouri house on his first try.

Today, just two years after Blunt was elected to public office he is one of the rising stars in the Missouri Republican party.

Rep. Fred Pouche, R-Kansas City, said Blunt is the ideal candidate for the secretary of state position because he had "knowledge and familiarity of the office because his father held the office."

But some Missouri politicans question the qualifications of such a young candidate for statewide office.

"In the military there are very strict rules, a strict chain of command from the time they eat to the time they rise.

A lot of stuff does not go along with the political field," said Bill Ransdall, D-Waynesville.

Blunt deflects the criticism by citing his Navy experiences, "look at the secretary of state office, it is an administrative and managerial office. I have much more managerial and administrative experience than anybody in the race."

Blunt also said he would use this experience to ensure fair elections, and also use technology to make it government more accessible.
Home Springfield, MO
Wife Melanie, No children
Pets dog, collie, horses
Employment State Rep. R-Springfield, development and research manager at Churchhill Coffee, Navy reserves one weekend a month.