To run for governor, Hulshof will have to forgo a re-election bid for his congressional seat.
Hulshof joins Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and Treasurer Sarah Steelman in the Republican gubernatorial primary, which was thrown wide open last week when Blunt announced he will not seek a second term in the November elections.
Attorney General Jay Nixon so far is the only Democrat in the race, though a spokesman for Secretary of State Robin Carnahan has said she is thinking about it.
Hulshof cast himself as a conservative voice, an advocate for open and honest government and a leader in the fight against corruption.
"We need a state government that knows its place, does its job well, and then gets out of the way of the American spirit," Hulshof said in a written statement. "Missourians reject blind partisanship, and they are demanding new ideas and innovative leadership. It will take independence and resolve to end the bitterness that often infects political discourse.
"I intend to do just that as the next governor of the state of Missouri," Hulshof said.
Hulshof, 49, of Columbia and originally from Southeast Missouri, had seriously considered running for governor in 2004 but deferred to Blunt. A former prosecutor who served a stint for the Cape Girardeau County prosecuting attortney's office, Hulshof was first elected to the House in 1996.
He won a plum position on the influential House Ways and Means Committee during his first term and was considered a solid conservative who stressed fighting crime and expanding ethanol use -- issues important to his mostly rural constituents. He was re-elected in 2006 with 61 percent of the vote.
Hulshof had a difficult year in 2005 when he was ousted from the House Ethics Committee after the panel admonished former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. Democrats and watchdog groups said the action was retaliation for the committee's investigation of DeLay, who later resigned the leadership post after being indicted on money laundering charges.
While announcing his gubernatorial candidacy, Hulshof said public officials should be held to a higher standard than the people they represent.
"I have never hesitated to stand against corruption, even if it meant political peril," Hulshof said.
Last year, Hulshof was a leading candidate to become president of the University of Missouri, a post he then called "one of the very few jobs for which I would consider leaving Congress." But university curators ultimately passed over Hulshof.
Hulshof's entry into the gubernatorial race could deter other potential candidates. Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton, for example, has seriously considered a gubernatorial bid but has said he would not run if Hulshof does. Federal prosecutor Catherine Hanaway, a former House speaker, also might opt against running.
On Monday, another colleague of Hulshof decided against a gubernatorial bid. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson of Cape Girardeau said she had "searched her soul" over the past few days and chose to instead seek re-election to her House seat.