JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Republican Gov. Matt Blunt reported raising more than twice as much as his likely Democratic challenger, Attorney General Jay Nixon, as the 2008 hopefuls raked in large quantities of cash following the repeal of Missouri's campaign contribution limits.
Blunt raised nearly $3 million during the past six months and had more than $4.5 million in his campaign account as of the end of March.
Nixon raised more than $1.3 million during the past six months and had more than $1.9 million on hand at the end of March.
Candidates faced a Monday deadline to file finance reports with the Missouri Ethics Commission. The reports cover the first period in which candidates have been able to accept unlimited contributions following the Jan. 1 repeal of the state's individual contribution caps.
Last election, candidates for statewide offices could receive no more than $1,275 in cash from each contributor, an amount that would have risen with inflation for the 2008 elections.
But a bill passed last year by the Republican-led legislature and signed into law by Blunt eliminated individual contribution limits while placing new limits on cash aid by political party committees. Supporters claimed it would make it easier for the public to trace campaign money by eliminating the need for big donors to funnel money to candidates through various committees.
Blunt took full advantage of the new law. A review of his campaign finance report appeared to show 43 contributions of at least $25,000 each, including eight individual contributions of $100,000.
Nixon, by contrast, appeared to report just four contributions of $25,000, and none greater than that.
Both campaigns claimed a strong financial position and, from that, extrapolated an assertion of strong public support. Blunt's campaign claimed the donations show people believe he is "leading Missouri in the right direction," while Nixon's campaign countered that its donations show people are tired of "watching Matt Blunt continue to move our state in the wrong direction."
Nixon's campaign claimed to have twice as much cash on hand as then-Secretary of State Blunt did in April 2003 when preparing to challenge an incumbent governor. Blunt's campaign, meanwhile, claimed to have raised more money in a single reporting period than any other governor.
But neither Blunt nor Nixon posted the single largest contribution among statewide candidates.
That distinction belonged to Sen. Chris Koster, R-Harrisonville, who is preparing for a likely run for attorney general.
Koster reported receiving $125,000 from James Stowers -- founder of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City -- who financed most of the $30 million campaign for last year's successful constitutional amendment protecting the ability to conduct stem-cell research.
Koster has been one of the most vocal supporters of stem-cell research in the Senate, where his passionate speech two years ago helped stall a bill that would have banned a certain kind of embryonic stem-cell research.
His campaign finance report also showed other contributions from stem-cell research supporters, including $75,000 from the political action committee Supporters of Health Research and Treatments.
"We're going to try and raise a lot of money for this race, and we're taking this exploratory effort very seriously," Koster said.
Including a $200,000 personal loan, Koster reported raising $514,304 during the period, with $504,881 still on hand.
The only two candidates to have officially set up attorney general campaign committees reported significantly less money. Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood, reported raising $12,636 during the period, with $94,863 on hand. House Minority Leader Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, reported raising $37,755 during the period, with $132,213 on hand.
In the lieutenant governor's race, incumbent Republican Peter Kinder reported raising $117,056 during the period, with $100,406 on hand.
But that was less than one potential opponent -- Democratic Rep. Sam Page, of St. Louis, who has formed a statewide campaign committee but hasn't officially entered the lieutenant governor's race. He reported raising $196,462 during the period, with $165,607 on hand.
Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, who has no opponents, reported raising $154,416 during the period, with $289,607 on hand.
Republican Treasurer Sarah Steelman reported raising $102,880 during the six-month period, but $70,000 of that was a loan from herself used to repay a personal loan left over from her 2004 campaign. Steelman raised no money since 2007 began. A Steelman aide said she opted against fundraising during the legislative session in case a judge's decision striking down a ban on such fund raising is overturned.