COLUMBIA — Republican U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof of Columbia kicked off his campaign for governor at a meeting with a couple dozen enthusiastic supporters at Columbia Regional Airport on Monday morning.
“‘Governor Hulshof:’ That just has a good sound!!” one handmade sign hoisted by a fan of the congressman said. Others held red, white and blue signs already printed for the young campaign: “Kenny Hulshof: Governor,” they read.
Hulshof’s remarks, which lasted 30 minutes, hit briefly on several of the issues he said will be key to the campaign. Among those issues was health care, which Hulshof said will need attention.
“We need to focus on things like market-based reforms,” Hulshof said. “We need to make sure that health care is accessible and affordable for those who are having a tough time making ends meet.”
Hulshof also called the national economy shaky, and although he maintained that Missouri’s economy is going strong, he said he wants to work to make it even better.
“We need to make sure that we continue to attract more businesses,” Hulshof said.
Hulshof has had his eye on the governor’s seat before. The death of his father in late 2003 caused him to bow out after doing some preliminary fund-raising for a potential Republican primary bid against Matt Blunt, the incumbent who announced last month that he would not seek re-election.
This time around, Hulshof will be competing against Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and State Treasurer Sarah Steelman for the GOP nomination. Attorney General Jay Nixon is the early favorite to win the Democratic primary.
“I do think ... that this is our time,” he said.
Many of those who attended the rally are long-time supporters of Hulshof and his policies. One was Carolyn Winkler, who first became familiar with Hulshof after her son, Tracy Winkler, was killed on U.S. 63 in 1996, which at the time was a two-lane highway. Winkler and her family wrote letters asking that the government widen the road to four lanes. Hulshof took on the project, lobbying for federal money and helping see it through to fruition.
“We’ve supported him ever since,” Winkler said.
Hulshof’s Columbia rally was the first in a series of appearances he planned on Monday. Next on his itinerary were visits to Springfield and Joplin. He also will campaign later this week in other mid-Missouri cities, mid-Missouri spokesman Scott Baker said.
“I’m going to introduce myself to folks, and I’m going to talk about the values and principles that drive me,” Hulshof said.