Roy Blunt to Fill DeLay's House Leadership Post

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Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) will temporarily replace House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who was indicted Wednesday by a Texas grand jury in a campaign finance scandal. Alex Chadwick discusses Blunt's career with Steve Kraske, political correspondent for The Kansas City Star.


The new House majority leader, Congressman Roy Blunt, has a long career in Missouri politics. His son is now the governor of the state. Steve Kraske is political correspondent for The Kansas City Star and host of "Up to Date." That's a public affairs program on member station KCUR.

Steve, welcome to DAY TO DAY.

STEVE KRASKE (Host, "Up to Date"): Alex, thanks for having me.

CHADWICK: So Roy Blunt has not been in Congress as long as some other members of the House leadership. He was elected in 1996, less than 10 years ago, but he's moved up pretty quickly.

KRASKE: You know, Alex, he's had one of the fastest ascensions I think in Washington history. Early in his second term in Washington, his third year in Congress, he becomes Tom DeLay's right-hand man. It's an amazing ascension, and it's made Roy Blunt a player from his earliest days in Washington.

CHADWICK: What is it that led people to say, `Hey, we want this guy to be a leader in the party in the House'?

KRASKE: I think there are a number of factors here. I think he is seen as a consummate team player. He's been a great contrast to Tom DeLay, who, of course, is known as the Hammer on Capitol Hill. Roy Blunt can be firm, he can be tough, but he is not in the DeLay mode in terms of the kinds of arm-twisting that he does on Capitol Hill. He works with people. He gives them credit. He gives them credit before he gives credit to himself. And he's known as a great fund-raiser in Washington. He raises money and gives much of it away to his fellow Republican colleagues on the Hill, and curries their favor and helps them out and has really ascended by being this consummate team player.

CHADWICK: He was a county clerk in Missouri, he was the secretary of State and now he's a congressional person. Is there an anecdote from local politics that might tell us something about him?

KRASKE: Well, he's a fighter. He ran in 1992 for the Republican nomination for governor; he wanted to succeed John Ashcroft. And he ran for governor despite the fact that the attorney general, a fellow Republican, Bill Webster, was running for governor, and also the Republican state treasurer, Wendall Bailey, was running for governor. And there was this--something of an historic GOP primary in Missouri that year brutally fought between these three men, and Roy Blunt fell just short of Bill Webster and lost in that primary and Bill Webster went on to lose to Mel Carnahan in the general election that year.

But it begins to show you how ambitious Roy Blunt is. He wanted to climb the ladder in Missouri. And when that didn't work out, just four years later, he turns around and runs for Congress and has had perhaps more success in Washington easily than he's had back here in Missouri.

CHADWICK: The one thing that I think might have given Republicans some pause in Washington is that he also has questions about his ethical background.

KRASKE: No question about it. During his years on the Hill, Alex, he's worked deals to do favors for the woman who is now his wife, a big lobbyist for Philip Morris, the cigarette maker. He's also helped out companies that have his son, his youngest son back in Jefferson City, Andy Blunt--some of his clients have gotten favors courtesy of Roy Blunt in Washington. And both of these things have been pointed out in the press and they were seen as silly moves I guess, in a sense, that they were kind of not the mistakes that a first-rate politician would make in Washington, to do favors for people very much close to him and favors that would be pointed out by the press a short time later. So those were seen as a little bit sloppy and he'll pay the price for that, but so far, he's avoided any consequence.

CHADWICK: Steve Kraske, political correspondent for The Kansas City Star, host of "Up to Date" on member station KCUR, an expert on Missouri politics.

Steve, thanks for joining us on DAY TO DAY.

KRASKE: Glad to do it, Alex.

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