JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Of Missouri's six statewide executive branch elected positions, the state treasurer arguably has the lowest public profile. As long as the treasurer is competently managing the state's investments, few Missourians give the post much thought.
Yet this year the office is one of the most sought after in terms of candidate interest with 11 people vying to replace incumbent State Treasurer Nancy Farmer, a Democrat who is running for U.S. Senate.
Unlike other statewide races where the Democratic and Republican tickets each feature just one or two prominent candidates who stand out among little-known opponents, the major party nominations for treasurer could go to any of the hopefuls.
The seven-candidate field for the Republican nomination in the Aug. 3 primary is particularly wide open and features four current or former state lawmakers.
Although many of the candidates have records of public service, none has significant statewide name recognition among voters.
State Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, said getting out and meeting voters is the best way to make an impression and distinguish yourself from the pack.
"In a race where no candidate has very good name ID, it is important to have a grassroots network built up," said Luetkemeyer, a banker and insurance agent.
'I'm a little surprised'
Another banking industry veteran, state Sen. Anita Yeckel, R-St. Louis, emphasizes her financial experience but acknowledges that most of her opponents can lay claim to similar backgrounds, which makes drawing distinctions difficult.
"It is really interesting," Yeckel said. "I'm a little surprised there are so many people in this one race."
State Sen. Sarah Steelman, R-Rolla, could be more visible in the weeks leading up to the election voters thanks to the Missouri Supreme Court decision that placed a proposed constitutional ban on same sex marriages on the August ballot. Steelman, an economist and investment broker, sponsored the proposal in the Senate.
Although Steelman had preferred the marriage question be decided at the November general election, which typically yields higher voter turnout, she could get a political benefit from the earlier vote as one of the top spokespeople for the issue. However, Steelman has downplayed any impact her role in pushing for the amendment might have on her bid for the GOP nomination as treasurer.
Former state Rep. Chet Boeke of St. Charles unsuccessfully sought the office four years ago but lost to a well-financed opponent. Boeke, a real estate agent and general contractor, sells himself as a candidate who is not beholden to big money donors.
"I am running a self-funded campaign," Boeke said. "I think it is practically obsence when people spend 400 or 500 thousand dollars or more for a campaign."
Former auditor candidate
The only hopeful ever to previously win the Republican nomination for statewide office, Al Hanson of Concordia, is the one candidate that party leaders, who typically don't publicly take sides in contested primaries, hope doesn't prevail this time around.
The little-known Hanson defeated the party's anointed choice for state auditor in the 2002 primary. Shortly thereafter the state party disavowed Hanson after a past felony conviction for financial fraud came to light. Hanson, who spent time in prison, now ministers to inmates.
The Republican field is rounded out by William Pundmann of St. Charles, the president of an investment banking firm that bears his name, and Tom Klein, who owns a St. Louis catering company.
The Democratic side of the ticket is less crowded but still anybody's ballgame.
Arnold Mayor Mark Powell has touted his experience as an accountant and banker while portraying himself as a Jefferson City outsider during his year-long effort to connect with voters.
"I've put 27,000 miles on my car traveling the state of Missouri," Powell said. "I have been stressing the importance of having a financial background rather than being a true politician."
State Rep. Mark Abel, D-Festus, is playing up his legislative experience and government connections in his own campaign.
"What distinguishes me is I am a 12-year member of the House, a small business person and leader in the legislature," Abel said.
Abel, an insurance broker, was House speaker pro tem, the chamber's No. 2 member, until Democrats lost their majority in 2003. He then served a year as minority floor leader, his party's ranking House member.
Jason Klumb, a Butler lawyer, claims a trifecta of government experience, financial training and youthful energy.
"I have the background to be able to handle the responsibilities of the job," Klumb said.
Klumb was elected to the first of two House terms in 1992 at the uncommonly young age of 24. He later attended the prestigious London School of Economics and also worked for several top Democratic officeholders.
Libertarian Lisa Emerson of Raytown is also running, but with no primary opponent she is assured of a spot on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.
ON THE NET
Learn more about the state treasurer candidates by visiting their Web sites:
Jason Klumb: www.klumbfortreasurer.com
Mark Powell: www.markpowell2004.com
Mark Abel: www.markabel.net
Chet Boeke: www.geocities.com/chetboeke
Al Hanson: www.ylm.org/alhanson
William Pundmann: www.pundmann.com
Tom Klein: www.tomkleintreasurer.com
Sarah Steelman: www.sarahsteelman.com
Anita Yeckel: www.anitayeckel.com
Blaine Luetkemeyer: www.luetkemeyer4treasurer.com
Lisa J. Emerson: No Web address available.