McCaskill expected to announce U.S. Senate bid

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Democrat Claire McCaskill plans to announce today that she will challenge Republican Sen. Jim Talent next year, a source close to McCaskill said on Monday.

McCaskill has been state auditor since 1999 and faced re-election next year. She ran unsuccessfully for governor last year against Republican Matt Blunt, losing by about 3 percentage points, after knocking out incumbent Democratic Gov. Bob Holden to reach the November election.

She has traveled to Washington to discuss a Senate contest. Some Democrats have been encouraging McCaskill to run, seeing her as the party's best hope to unseat an incumbent with a major financial advantage.

A close friend of McCaskill confirmed to The Associated Press, on condition of anonymity, that McCaskill will run for Senate. Citing unnamed Missouri Democrats, The Kansas City Star also was reporting that McCaskill would run.

She had pledged to announce her decision by Labor Day, and a formal announcement was scheduled for today at an old feed mill in Houston, Mo., where her father once worked.

George Connor, associate professor of political science at Missouri State University, said it's unlikely McCaskill would travel all the way to Houston -- a small town about 100 miles south of Jefferson City -- to announce that she's not running.

"This is a signal that she's trying to broaden her appeal," Connor said.

Connor said McCaskill appears to be trying to tap into the rural voters Democrats need to become more competitive with Republicans in statewide races.

Talent, meanwhile, has had time to raise big money with no opponent to match him.

Spokesman Rich Chrismer said the senator is prepared for any announcement and is focusing on his official duties.

"He continues to work with people on both sides of the aisle on behalf of Missouri jobs, health care, law enforcement and the nation's security," Chrismer said.

In July, he reported raising nearly $2.6 million in the previous three months, giving him a major financial lead over a Democratic challenger.

Talent's report showed he raised a total of $3.9 million in the first half of the year and had $3.4 million cash on hand for a re-election campaign.

Making another run for a major office after a loss isn't unheard of in Missouri; in fact, McCaskill would be following in Talent's footsteps.

In 2000, he ran for governor but narrowly lost to Holden, then turned around and beat Jean Carnahan to take over the U.S. Senate seat in 2002.

The Democratic Party and McCaskill's spokesman in the auditor's office would not say what her decision was Monday. Nor would Tony Wyche, a Democratic consultant who served as spokesman for Robin Carnahan's successful campaign for secretary of state last year and who's organizing the announcement in Houston.

The advisory about her announcement says it was paid for by "McCaskill for Missouri." There's no such group listed with the Missouri Ethics Commission, which handles state contests, though new committees have a few weeks to get their papers in. It's not the name of the committee she formed for the auditor's race. A U.S. Senate campaign committee would report to the Federal Election Commission.

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