Republican leaders in the legislature say Governor Blunt’s decision to not seek re-election caught them by surprise.
"I think the majority of us are just stunned," says Senate Majority Floor Leader Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph).
Shields was one of the Republican legislative leaders who participated in a conference call with the governor in which he informed them of his decision. The call came at 3:50pm Tuesday, ten minutes prior to the legislature’s return from the Martin Luther King, Junior Holiday.
Rumors began to circulate at the Capitol shortly after three in the afternoon. They intensified around 3:30 and grew as legislators, lobbyists and reporters exchanged tidbits with each other. Some questioned whether the announcement was legitimate. Legislative leaders, indeed, looked shocked as they came out of their offices after hearing the news.
House Speaker Rod Jetton (R-Marble Hill) says it was a rare instance of complete surprise at the Capitol, "I mean I don’t think anybody knew this. I mean it’s hard to keep secrets in Jeff City, but we walked in to the Capitol today and I didn’t hear it from anybody."
Jetton still believes Republicans can retain the office of governor, because, as he puts it, they have much to run on.