JEFFERSON CITY — Former Missouri Treasurer Sarah Steelman launched a challenge on Wednesday to Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, seeking to gain some early momentum by becoming the first Republican to enter the 2012 race.
Steelman announced her candidacy on a revamped website that now declares "Sarah Steelman for U.S. Senate 2012."
"I want to do my part in fighting for America's future," she said in the online message. "That's why I have decided to run for the United States Senate."
She followed that with a Twitter message. "I'm running for US Senate because I believe in the American dream, which is more freedom NOT more government."
Steelman was on jury duty Wednesday and not immediately available for further comment, Jeff Layman, a Steelman associate, said.
Other prominent Republicans considering the race include former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, whom McCaskill narrowly defeated in 2006. Talent recently told The Associated Press that he plans to make a decision by early 2011. A Talent spokeswoman did not immediately respond on Wednesday to a request for comment about Steelman's announcement.
A McCaskill spokeswoman did not immediately return messages on Wednesday.
Steelman, 52, of Rolla, served as state treasurer from 2005 to 2009 and had considered running to replace retiring Republican Sen. Kit Bond in the 2010 elections. She ultimately deferred to U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, who won the Senate race, and served as chairwoman of a coalition dubbed "Small Businessmen and Women for Blunt." In that role, Steelman kept up her own political profile by traveling to various political functions and speaking on behalf of Blunt. Although Blunt was not actively backed by many tea party activists, Steelman has gained a following among them.
Her support for Blunt was a party unifying move for Steelman, who in 2008 gained a reputation as a maverick by challenging the party establishment pick, U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, in a Republican primary for governor. Steelman lost the primary and Hulshof later was soundly defeated by Democrat Jay Nixon.
A former state economist and college instructor, Steelman defeated the Democratic chairman of the state Senate Appropriations Committee in her political debut in 1998. She served in the state Senate until becoming treasurer in 2005. Her husband is David Steelman, a prominent Republican lawyer who ran for attorney general against Nixon in 1992.