JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri’s election ballot started taking shape Tuesday, as scores of campaign veterans and political rookies filed for offices from U.S. Senate to governor to seats in the legislature.
Democrats moved closer to a contested nomination for governor, as State Auditor Claire McCaskill filed papers to challenge incumbent Bob Holden. The first-term governor filed later Tuesday, as did the best-known Republican candidate for Holden’s job, Secretary of State Matt Blunt.
“There’s no question I have to be tagged the underdog, because the governor has incredible power to raise money,” McCaskill said as she waited to file. “But I’m excited and I’m in this for the long haul.”
There will also be a Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. Charles Berry, a St. Louis businessman and decorated veteran who flew medical evacuation helicopters in Vietnam, was the first Democrat to file for the Senate seat held by three-term Republican Kit Bond, who is seeking re-election. State Treasurer Nancy Farmer is also running as a Democrat for Senate.
Besides senator and governor, voters will select nominees for lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and state treasurer. There are also nine congressional seats on the ballot, 17 positions in the 34-member Missouri Senate, all 163 seats in the Missouri House and several circuit judgeships.
Filing for the Aug. 3 primaries runs through 5 p.m. March 30. More than 300 candidates were expected to file on opening day.
First-time candidates abounded.
Len Ludlam of Warrensburg, a maintenance worker at a poultry plant, filed as a Libertarian for the state Senate. Ludlam said he is running because a friend suggested it.
“And I’m running as a Libertarian because I think they have lots of great ideas,” he said.
Steven Tilley leaned on metal crutches to make it through the filing line. The optometrist from Perryville, making his debut bid for public office as a Republican candidate for state representative, said he sprained his ankle while playing soccer. His wife, Kellie, held his place in line while Tilley sat down.
“I’m just glad this happened now rather than in August, so I’ll be healed in time to campaign,” Tilley said.
Tim Schoemehl, 26, has politics in his bloodline; his father is former St. Louis Mayor Vince Schoemehl, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1992. The son is running for a state House seat in St. Louis, saying, “I’ve always cared about my hometown and its neighborhoods and I want to serve.”
There were also filers from campaigns past.
Democrat Ed Schellhorn, 61, served four terms in the Missouri House, losing re-election in 1992 when he was thrown into a redrawn district with another incumbent representative from St. Joseph. After a dozen years in private life, Schellhorn returned to Jefferson City on Tuesday to file for the House.
“You can only sit back and watch for so long,” Schellhorn said. “Everything’s going to hell in Jeff City and we need some experience in the Capitol.”
U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Lexington, paid his $100 filing fee with Missouri state quarters commemorating Lewis and Clark’s explorations. Other incumbent members of Congress filing for re-election Tuesday were Republican Sam Graves of Tarkio and Democrat William Lacy Clay of St. Louis.
Two of the state’s congressional Democrats — Dick Gephardt of St. Louis and Karen McCarthy of Kansas City — are not seeking re-election. Jamie Metzl, a former White House fellow, filed for the 5th District seat, as did former Kansas City Mayor Emanuel Cleaver. In the St. Louis-centered 3rd District, the filers included state Rep. Russ Carnahan , D-St. Louis, son of the late Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan, and state Sen. Steve Stoll, D-Festus.
Gone are the days when candidates and their surrogates waited, sometimes for months, to be first to file in their races, allowing them to be listed at the top of the ballot. Some candidates think being listed first in their race can draw a few votes from voters who are in a hurry — or indifferent.
Tuesday’s process was more orderly: pay the filing fee, wait to complete candidate paperwork, then draw a number between one and 999. The numbers were being sorted at day’s end to determine ballot position — the lower the number, the higher the ballot spot.