Secretary of State considers gubernatorial campaign

Friday, January 25, 2008 | 5:34 p.m. CST; updated 12:26 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Secretary of State Robin Carnahan’s campaign confirmed Friday that she is considering a run for governor, making her the first Democrat to look anew at the race since Republican Gov. Matt Blunt declared he will not seek re-election.

Carnahan had planned on running again for secretary of state. But a campaign spokesman said Blunt’s surprising decision has led her to ponder a gubernatorial bid instead.

“She’s received several calls from people urging her to think about it,” said Carnahan spokesman Tony Wyche. “The political landscape in the state has gone through a major upheaval, so she’s just going to take a little bit of time here and think about it.”

Attorney General Jay Nixon is so far the only Democrat to declare his candidacy for governor.

Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, who will announce her candidacy Saturday, are the only two to enter the governor’s race after Blunt announced his exit Tuesday. But at least a half dozen other Republicans also are considering it.

Nixon had been campaigning against Blunt for several years before having to suddenly adjust his efforts. But he has vowed to press on with essentially the same message.

“We recognize the secretary of state’s right to make her own decision about her future,” said Nixon campaign spokesman Oren Shur. But “we need to change from the policies that have held our state back these past three years, and Missourians know that Jay Nixon has the best experience and clearest vision to bring about that change.”

This is not the first time Carnahan has considered running for governor.

In December 2006, Carnahan said she had seriously considered it but announced she would instead run for a second term as secretary of state in 2008. At the time, she cited personal reasons. She had just been engaged to be married and had just completed successful treatment for breast cancer.

Ultimately, Carnahan said in 2006, she decided that a highly competitive gubernatorial primary and general election would have been far more demanding — both personally and on her family — than a re-election bid as secretary of state. Carnahan said then that she would support Nixon for governor.

Among the many other Republicans now considering a gubernatorial campaign are U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway, Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton and Missouri Senate Majority Leader Charlie Shields.

Meanwhile, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., told reporters Friday that he is not backing any one candidate for governor and is not discouraging anyone from running.

“I am a communicator and a facilitator, not a dictator,” Bond said.

Most of the possible candidates and other GOP party leaders participated in a telephone conference call that Bond led Wednesday to discuss the race, but Bond declined to share specifics.

While conventional wisdom might hold that Republicans are better off rallying around a single candidate instead of having a crowded primary, Bond said his own experience shows that isn’t always true. He ran for governor three times and won twice after defeating competitors in the GOP primary. The one time he didn’t face a primary opponent, he lost the general election.

“Nobody wants a primary but sometimes they provide benefits,” Bond said. “We’ll see how it shakes out.”

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