By JENN HERSEIM
and ALEX LUNDY
COLUMBIA — Just one week after Gov. Matt Blunt announced he would not seek re-election, the Republican ticket for Missouri’s primary in August is already split three ways.
U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof of Columbia, 49, announced a decision Tuesday morning to run for governor.
State Treasurer Sarah Steelman and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder declared their intent to enter the contest last week.
“It will be an interesting and difficult race,” Hulshof said. “But I’m ready to get started.”
During a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, Hulshof said he talked to his wife, Renee, after a phone conversation with Blunt the day of the governor’s announcement.
Hulshof said he felt a sense of calling to be governor, a passion Blunt told voters he lacked last week.
“I think of public service as a high calling,” Hulshof said.
The congressman said he thinks Missouri needs a “responsive and responsible government,” one that is “open, honest and efficient.”
“I’ve come up with tangible solutions because that’s what people want from government,” he said.
Though he did not get specific on issues, Hulshof said he is prepared to address them when other candidates confront him.
“That day will come,” he said.
This is Hulshof’s second try for this office. He initiated a run for governor against Blunt in 2004 but withdrew early because of his father’s death. He has served the 25 counties in Missouri’s 9th Congressional district for the last 11 years.
He has also worked with Attorney General Jay Nixon, the single declared Democratic candidate for governor. Hulshof was a special prosecutor in the Attorney General’s Office from 1989 to 1996, according to the congressman’s Web site. Nixon entered office in 1992. Hulshof described his relationship with Nixon as a friendly one, but said he would not let it affect his campaign.
“If we are both nominated, I know we’ll try to stay focused on the issues,” he said.
In August, Missouri will hold a primary to narrow the field of gubernatorial candidates before the general election in November.
State Rep. Judy Baker, D-Columbia, who has been campaigning against Hulshof for the 9th Congressional seat, said Hulsof’s decision would not affect her bid for his seat in Congress.
“I intended to run against him anyway,” she said. “I am pleased to not have an opponent. I am pleased that it’s still an open seat.”
Primaries such as this one, with three candidates already heading for a runoff, typically have a negative impact on the Republican Party, said James Endersby, associate professor in the political science department at MU.
“Contested primaries are not good things for the party,” Endersby said. “They tend to chew up a lot of money, and candidates say things about each other that create fissions. They say things that get circulated during the general election.”
Any incumbent advantage Gov. Matt Blunt possessed going into this year’s election won’t give any of the other Republican candidates an advantage, he said. Neither will the governor’s endorsement have much of an impact on voters’ decisions.
“It probably won’t make much of a difference,” Endersby said. “The effects (of endorsements) tend to be usually small. They aren’t a huge influence on voters.”