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Blunt spends part of break with congressional delegation in Mexico, Colombia

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 8, 2009 - U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Strafford and a candidate for the U.S. Senate, is returning tonight from a six-day congressional trip to Mexico and Colombia.

On Thursday, Blunt will participate in a conference call about the trip, said communications director Nick Simpson.

Simpson said Blunt was part of a delegation, led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who spent much of the trip focusing on drug-trafficking and related violence plaguing both countries.

Blunt went because of his past work on trade issues involving the countries, and his membership on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Simpson said. He noted that Mexico is a key importer of beef from southwest Missouri, which is primarily in Blunt's district.

Still, Blunt's decision to go on the trip has raised some eyebrows among some Missouri Republicans, who privately circulated news of the trip with concerns that it might send the wrong message about how focused Blunt is on his Senate bid. He may face a primary challenge from former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman. One Democrat, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, already has announced her candidacy.

The congressional group was in Mexico from Friday through Sunday, meeting with officials there. Then it was on to Colombia, where Simpson said some of the attention would be on the "United States' role to cut down on narco-terrorism."

The rest of the congressional delegation is continuing on to Panama, while Blunt is coming back to spend most or all of the rest of the two-week congressional break in Missouri, Simpson added.

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.

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