JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Senate Minority Leader Maida Coleman said Tuesday she is running for state auditor, ensuring Democrats will have a contested primary in the race to replace incumbent Claire McCaskill.
Coleman, 51, of St. Louis, has not formed a campaign committee and so far has reported raising no money for the auditor's race.
"I've decided that I am running," Coleman said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I just haven't decided when I'm making the [official] announcement."
Coleman is the second Democrat to enter the race. Buchanan County Auditor Susan Montee, 46, announced her candidacy last month and immediately put $500,000 of her own money into the campaign -- a commitment intended partly to demonstrate her seriousness to potential rivals.
But Coleman said she was undeterred and pledged to have an "impressive" campaign account when finance reports are next due to the Missouri Ethics Commission in January.
"This isn't a race to see who can announce first; this is an opportunity for the people of Missouri to determine who will best represent them, and I will be prepared to represent them well," Coleman said.
Prevented by term limits from seeking re-election to the Senate, Coleman already has closed her legislative campaign account. So far, Coleman said she has been accumulating pledges -- not cash -- for her auditor's race, which is why she didn't file an Ethics Commission report due Monday for the past quarter.
McCaskill, also a Democrat, is challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Talent in 2006 instead of seeking re-election.
Two Republicans also have already entered the auditor's race -- state Rep. Jack Jackson, of Wildwood, and state Sen. John Loudon, of Ballwin.
Coleman, a Sikeston native, was elected in 2000 to a St. Louis seat in the House of Representatives. But before her first term even ended, Coleman won a February 2002 special election for a Senate seat left vacant by the death of Paula Carter. Coleman easily won re-election last year and was selected by Democratic colleagues as their Senate leader.
Montee said Coleman's entry into the race wouldn't change her strategy of campaigning across rural Missouri and stressing her experience.
"I have a lot of respect for Sen. Coleman. I think she's a good leader for our party, but it really doesn't affect how I'm running this race," Montee said. "There are certain qualifications needed in the state auditor's office. We believe you should have advance training, whether it is as an attorney or CPA, and I have both."
Coleman has a journalism degree from Lincoln University in Jefferson City and previously worked for the secretary of state's office and St. Louis Housing Authority.