Republican Jack Jackson testing waters for Mo. governor's race

Thursday, September 13, 2007

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Former Republican Rep. Jack Jackson is paying for a public opinion poll testing his prospects in a potential challenge to Republican Gov. Matt Blunt.

Jackson, who narrowly lost a Republican primary for state auditor last year, has commissioned a poll that asks participants to choose between himself, Blunt and Attorney General Jay Nixon, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

If he decides to run, Jackson said he would do so in the 2008 Republican primary.

"The reality of it is I don't think that's going to happen, but I just had to know," Jackson said Thursday.

Jackson equates the poll to the work he did as a test pilot for the Boeing Co., acting on data, not emotion, and making reasonably sure things were safe before taking a risk.

Although he is out of public office, Jackson said he continues to give speeches about once a week to various groups about his experiences in the military, as a test pilot and in government. Sometimes he's paid for the speeches; sometimes he does it for free.

"When I give a speech, people will say, `You need to run for governor,"' said Jackson, 64, of the St. Louis suburb of Wildwood. "I thought that was just nice talk, that was wonderful. But it just kept coming. ... So I commissioned a group to run a poll: Let's see what people really think."

The telephone poll began after Labor Day in the St. Louis, Kansas City and southwest Missouri areas and should be complete by the end of this week, Jackson said. Then, he will pour over the data and perhaps even request a meeting with Blunt before making any decisions.

Jackson created a campaign committee for an unspecified statewide office last December but until now has done little with it. The committee's most recent campaign finance report showed it had $3,050 on hand as of the end of June -- a far cry from the $5.8 million Blunt reported on hand and the $2.4 million reported by Nixon through the end of June.

At the state Republican Party's annual Lincoln Days conference in St. Louis in February, Jackson hung a "Jack Jackson for Missouri" campaign banner at the back of the hotel conference room where elected officials held a forum. But Jackson said then that he was just keeping his options open, without anything specific in mind.

Because he ran for auditor instead of seeking re-election to the House last year, Jackson's four-year stint in the House ended in January when the new lawmakers were sworn in. But he has remained politically connected.

At House Speaker Rod Jetton's request, Jackson on Wednesday flew game show host Bob Barker from St. Louis to the capital for an induction ceremony into the Hall of Famous Missourians. But Jackson said he missed much of the ceremony because he was participating in a White House conference call providing a briefing on the war in Iraq.

Jackson served a Marine combat pilot in Vietnam before beginning his private-sector career as a test pilot.

Asked about Jackson's poll for the governor's race, Blunt campaign spokesman John Hancock said he didn't want to "speculate on any rumors of candidates out there."

"I am extremely confident that Gov. Matt Blunt will not only be the Republican nominee for governor, he will be elected," Hancock said.

A Nixon campaign spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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