JEFFERSON CITY — Rep. Roy Blunt, a Republican, widened his financial advantage over Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a Democrat, as the two leading contenders for Missouri's open U.S. Senate seat entered the 2010 election year.
Campaign finance reports available Monday show Blunt nearly doubled his margin of available cash over Carnahan during the final three months of 2009.
Blunt is a U.S. House member from southwest Missouri; Carnahan is Missouri's secretary of state. Both want to succeed longtime Republican Sen. Kit Bond, who is not seeking re-election this November.
Blunt reported taking in more than $1.3 million during the last quarter of 2009 while Carnahan brought in about $877,000.
After expenses, Blunt reported more than $2.9 million available as of Dec. 31 compared with Carnahan's $2.1 million. Blunt's cash-on-hand advantage of about $826,000 is almost twice as large as the roughly $431,000 gap that separated the two candidates at their last reporting cutoff of Sept. 30.
Blunt's campaign noted that he received donations from all 114 Missouri counties and the city of St. Louis and received more checks from individuals than Carnahan did from individual and political committees combined.
"The grassroots energy in Roy Blunt's year-long campaign is surging literally everywhere he goes," said Blunt spokesman Rich Chrismer.
Carnahan's campaign discounted Blunt's cash advantage as typical of Washington officeholders and noted that he took more than three times as much as she did from political committees.
"As a true Washington insider, Congressman Blunt knows how to work the system and raise a lot of campaign cash from special interests," said Carnahan spokesman Linden Zakula.
Although Blunt's cash advantage has grown, both he and Carnahan have been raising money at a pace to finance a competitive race and have accumulated far more than any other candidates.
Republican Chuck Purgason, a state senator from southern Missouri who announced his U.S. Senate candidacy last July, has printed campaign bumper stickers but has not mounted much of a fundraising effort. He reported receipts of about $4,000 during the past quarter and had just $125 available in his campaign account after expenses.
That was barely more than another little-known Republican candidate, Mark Memoly of Lee's Summit, whose only contribution was $100 from himself and who reported $92 available as of Dec. 31.
Others still could enter the Senate race. Candidacy filing for Missouri's August party primary elections runs from Feb. 23 through March 30. The winners of the primaries advance to the November general election.