Mo. Gov. Race in Chaos After Blunt Announcement
The surprise retirement of Gov. Matt Blunt (Mo.) has set off a free for all in Missouri as scads of Republican elected officials, members of Congress and leaders in the state legislature eye a chance to move up to the top of the political heap in the Show Me State.
The Fix chatted with a number of Republican operatives this morning in an effort to sort through the scrum. Each warned that Blunt's announcement genuinely stunned the political class in Missouri and that there would be a series of meetings starting today aimed at sorting out the field. And, while most of the focus is on the Republican side, the name of Secretary of State Robin Carnahan -- daughter of former governor Mel and former senator Jean -- is being floated for the Democrats, a prospect that presumptive nominee Jay Nixon, the state's attorney general, can't be too happy about.
Below you'll find our earlier handicapping of where things stand on the Republican side in Missouri, and, below that, an updated governor's line for races nationwide!
* Peter Kinder: The lieutenant governor didn't waste any time mourning Blunt, putting out a statement last night proclaiming: "I am the right person to deliver the positive change Missourians deserve." He didn't formally announce his bid in that press release but came pretty close, a forwardness that might not sit well with Blunt-aligned forces. Prior to being elected lieutenant governor in 2004, Kinder spent 12 years in the state Senate including a stint as president pro tempore.
* Kenny Hulshof: An insider favorite at the moment, Hulshof is under considerable pressure to consider running. Elected to the House from the north-central Missouri 9th district in 1996, Hulshof has been regularly mentioned as a statewide candidate ever since. With Republicans in the minority in the House now, the opportunity may be too good to pass up.
* Jo Ann Emerson: Like Hulshof, Emerson was elected to the House in 1996 and may well be looking for a way out with Republicans in the minority. If she ran, she could be formidable given the potential of being the only woman in the field and her base in the massive -- and heavily Republican -- 8th district, which encompasses most of southeastern Missouri. Emerson also has a golden last name in Republican politics; her late husband, Bill Emerson, was a major player in Missouri Republican politics.
* Jim Talent: Talent is an ambitious and talented pol who, until last night, didn't have an obvious next race. Thank you Matt Blunt! Talent has already run for governor once -- losing by a scintilla to then state Treasurer Bob Holden (D) in 2000. Two years later Talent ran and won a Senate seat held by Jean Carnahan but was on the losing end of his bid for a full term in 2006. Talent is a known commodity to voters in Missouri and would likely jump to an early lead due to his high name identification.
*** UPDATE ***
According to a high level Fix source, former senator Jim Talent (R) will not be a candidate for the newly-open governor's seat.
* Sarah Steelman: Steelman, first elected as state treasurer in 2004, is seen as a rising star within the party. Prior to winning her current statewide office, she served a term and a half in the state Senate. Steelman, somewhat coincidentally, announced her plans to run for re-election yesterday but could easily transition to a governor's bid.
* Charlie Shields: The state Senate Majority Leader, Shields had already made clear he would run for some statewide office in 2008 but hadn't announced (decided?) which one. Blunt's retirement could clarify the picture considerably for Shields. Before being elected to the state Senate in 2002, Shields served for more than a decade in the state House.
* Rod Jetton: Jetton is currently the speaker of the Missouri state House after being elected to the body in 2000.
UPDATED GOVERNORS LINE
5. ????: Just when we were prepared to add the open Delaware governor's race to the Line, Alan Levin, the head of the ubiquitous Happy Harry's pharmacies and assumed Republican nominee,takes himself out of the race. Any suggestions on what race (if any) should fill this slot? Offer them in the comments section.
4. North Carolina (D): The action in this open seat race to replace two-term Gov. Mike Easley (D) continues to be on the Democratic side where Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue and state Treasurer Richard Moore are already on television in advance of the state's May 6 primary. Republicans continue to look for a candidate to emerge from the jumble of little-known contenders running at the moment. Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory is the latest entry on the GOP side and might be the choice to unite the party and take back the seat. Still, a longshot for Republicans at the moment. (Previous ranking: 4)
3. Washington (D): Given that Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) beat former state Sen. Dino Rossi by just more than 100 votes in 2004, it seems certain that the rematch four years later will be close. An independent poll released this month showed Gregoire with a 48 percent to 35 percent lead over Rossi, and she should benefit from the advantages of incumbency as well as a pro-Democratic environment in the pacific northwest. Still, we have a feeling this one is going to tighten. (Previous ranking: 3)
2. Indiana (R): Republicans have grown less optimistic about Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) in recent months as skyrocketing property tax bills in the state have stoked voter anger with the incumbent. The Republican Governors Association released a poll earlier this month that showed Daniels with double digit leads over former Rep. Jill Long Thompson and architect Jim Schellinger, but he was unable to crack 50 percent against either of his likely Democratic challengers. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. Missouri (R): Many Republican strategists privately expressed relief at Blunt's decision not to run again, believing that the political damage he had incurred over his first term was too much to overcome. Still, open seats are by their nature more competitive than races where an incumbent is seeking re-election. Missouri was destined for the #1 spot on the Line regardless of Blunt's decision, but with him bowing out, it seems likely to hold the top spot for the foreseeable future. (Previous ranking: 1)
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