Steelman drops secretary of state bid to enter treasurer's race

Thursday, December 4, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Abandoning a bid for secretary of state, Sen. Sarah Steelman said Wednesday she instead will join a crowded Republican primary for state treasurer next year.

Steelman's announcement clears the way for Republican House Speaker Catherine Hanaway to run for secretary of state without any significant primary opposition. State GOP leaders had spent months encouraging either Steelman or Hanaway to drop out of the secretary of state's race to avoid a tough primary campaign.

Both the secretary of state and treasurer's races are likely to lack incumbents in 2004. Republican Secretary of State Matt Blunt is expected to run for governor. And Democratic Treasurer Nancy Farmer is challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Kit Bond.

The Democrats' expected secretary of state candidate is Robin Carnahan, daughter of the late Gov. Mel Carnahan and former U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan. Because of her family ties, Republican Party officials view her as a tough opponent and therefore want to avoid a damaging GOP primary.

"The party is gratified that the primary has been averted in the secretary of state's race," said John Hancock, a former executive director of the state Republican Party who was among those encouraging either Steelman or Hanaway to direct their political ambitions elsewhere.

Republicans are less concerned about avoiding a primary in the treasurer's race, which already has four other GOP candidates -- state Sen. Anita Yeckel, of St. Louis; state Rep. Brad Roark, of Springfield; state Rep. Blaine Luetkmeyer, of St. Elizabeth; and St. Louis businessman Tom Klein.

Democratic treasurer candidates include state Rep. Mark Abel, of Festus, and Arnold Mayor Mark Powell, who is also an investment broker.

Steelman, 45, was first elected to the Senate in 1998 and was re-elected to a second four-year term last year, meaning she can run for treasurer without giving up her Senate seat. She previously worked as an investment broker, revenue forecaster in the state Department of Revenue and economics instructor at Lincoln University in Jefferson City.

She first announced her decision to switch to the treasurer's race to the Rolla Daily News on Tuesday.

Hanaway said her own likely campaign for secretary of state should be less expensive and less difficult with Steelman out of a potential primary.

"I certainly, as I prepare to run for secretary of state, relish the thought a great deal more knowing there won't be a primary," said Hanaway, of Warson Woods.

Steelman's husband, David Steelman, is a former state legislator who won the 1992 Republican primary for attorney general but lost in the general election to Democrat Jay Nixon. The Republican Party suffered deep internal divisions that year as a result of a contentious governor's primary.

"Anybody who has lived through 1992 knows the problems with strong candidates running against each other" in the primary, Steelman said. "So I think it's natural ... to want to avoid hotly contested primary races."

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