Carnahan announces candidacy for U.S. Senate

Tuesday, February 3, 2009 | 11:42 a.m. CST; updated 12:51 p.m. CST, Tuesday, February 3, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, seeking to follow in the political footsteps of her mother and late father.

Carnahan, a Democrat, is the first candidate of either party to officially enter the race after Republican Sen. Kit Bond announced last month that he will not seek re-election.

She announced her candidacy in a video posted on her Web site.

Carnahan comes from a prominent political family. Her father, Mel Carnahan, was a two-term Missouri governor who died in a plane crash in October 2000 while campaigning for the Senate. He defeated Republican Sen. John Ashcroft anyway, and her mother, Jean Carnahan, was appointed to the Senate seat. She lost in a special election two years later.

Carnahan's brother is St. Louis-area U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan.

Her candidacy could create a showdown with another prominent Missouri political family. Among the Republicans most seriously considering the Senate race is U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, a former GOP House whip and former secretary of state whose son, Matt Blunt, just ended a term as governor.

Other Republicans looking at the race include former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent and former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, who lost a GOP primary last year for governor. But Republican leadership would like to avoid a primary.

Carnahan, 47, made no mention of her family roots in her two-minute announcement video, instead highlighting the economy and her own experience in cracking down on investment schemes as secretary of state.

"Our country is facing tough economic times and threats to our security like never before. It's time we had elected leaders ready to stop the political bickering and start solving problems — like rebuilding our economy so that it works for everyone and making government accountable for every nickel it spends," Carnahan said in her video statement.

Carnahan first was elected secretary of state in 2004 and won re-election over a little-known Republican opponent with nearly 62 percent of the vote — the largest percentage received by any Missouri statewide candidate in 2008. She can run for Senate without having to give up her current office.

An attorney before running for public office, Carnahan worked at the Export-Import Bank and with the National Democratic Institute, which helps promote democracy abroad. Although now an elected official, she still spends part of her time managing the family's cattle farm in Rolla, about an hour south of the capital.

During her first term as secretary of state, Carnahan got married and successfully battled cancer. She considered a gubernatorial bid in 2008 before deferring to Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon, who won.


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