JEFFERSON CITY • The inaugural platform used yesterday by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon held about 286 chairs. So who were the VIPs?
The governor’s family and staff, current and former elected officials, Supreme Court judges and program participants took up most of the first three rows.
But three personal-injury attorneys also scored prime seats on the platform, which was warmed by propane heaters under the floorboards.
According to the seating chart released by the governor’s office, spots in the second row were reserved for trial lawyers Tim Dollar and Michael Ketchmark of Kansas City, and Joseph Danis of Clayton. A chair also was marked for Danis’ wife.
Others who made the A-list were Thomas Green, a real estate lawyer from St. Louis, and his wife and daughter. Rounding out the VIPs in the second row was developer Michael Staenberg.
Staenberg co-founded Chesterfield-based THF Realty with Stan Kroenke and is now battling Kroenke in court over how to split up their holdings. The Nixons took a trip to Israel a few years ago with Staenberg and Green.
While Staenberg doesn’t show up as a Nixon contributor last year, a quick check of Missouri Ethics Commission reports shows that Danis and his firm gave $91,848 to Nixon’s campaign, Ketchmark gave $87,363 and Green gave $25,000.
Dollar's law firm gave the governor $100,000 in 2011.
Nixon, himself a trial lawyer before he became a state senator in 1987, has vetoed legislation that would restrict personal-injury and discrimination lawsuits. The issue will be on his plate again this year. The Republican-led Legislature plans to pass new versions of the business-backed bills.
Dollar is the president of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, which will be fighting those bills. "I will be there every week," he said today.
Robin Carnahan skips event
Dignitaries in the first two rows on the platform included U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, former Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, former Gov. Bob Holden and former Congressman Russ Carnahan. Most had their spouses by their sides.
Robin Carnahan, who left office yesterday as secretary of state, skipped the festivities.
She said this morning that she had attended most inaugurals for the last 30 years, since her father, the late Mel Carnahan, began climbing the ladder.
“I drove by there the other day and saw the setup and thought, I’m going to be so happy not to be sitting out in the cold," she said.
Nixon invited her to sit on the platform, she said, but she declined.
“They were very gracious about that, but look, I’m moving on with the next phase of what I’m going to do. I didn’t need to be there and they didn’t need me to be there.”
Carnahan, who was trounced in the U.S. Senate race in 2010 by Republican Roy Blunt, declined to say what that next phase is.
Lots of Dowds
The family with the most seats on the platform, other than the Nixons, appeared to be the Dowds, who had six seats in the fifth row.
Those chairs were labeled for Douglas Dowd, James Dowd, Richard Dowd, William Dowd, Edward Dowd and James R. Dowd. The St. Louis family has a long history in Democratic politics and the law, with several judges and former judges in the bunch.
Former legislators return
Nixon remains close to many of the legislators he served with in the late 1980s, and several were seated on the platform.
For example, former Sen. Phil Snowden and former Rep. Bill Skaggs, both Kansas City Democrats, had seats on the sixth row.
But in an interview, Skaggs said he had a beef with Nixon, and it wasn't about his assigned seat.
"I'm a little disgusted with him that he didn't help more Democrats" in the Nov. 6 election, Skaggs said.
He singled out a race involving former Rep. Sandra Reeves, who lost to Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City. "We couldn't raise the money" needed for the campaign, Skaggs said.
Tweet of the day
The best tweet came near the day’s end, from someone who wasn’t here. It was a flashback to the inauguration in 2004 of Republican Matt Blunt.
His wife, Melanie Blunt, who was seven months pregnant at the time, wore a cream-colored cape with fur trim and a billowing fur hat – and never heard the end of it. Some called her a snowball.
Memories of the image resurfaced on Twitter yesterday when Richard Callow, a Democratic political consultant in St. Louis, tweeted to Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights, that no matter how cold it was: “Don't wear the matching cape and hat….”
Melanie Blunt, who avoided the limelight and stayed in Springfield, Mo., much of the time her husband was governor, got the last word in last night.
She tweeted: “8 years later and we're still talking about the cape. Come on, guys, give a girl a break!”