Mo. governor's candidates make final primary push

Monday, August 4, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — At cattle yards and courthouses, Republican gubernatorial candidates Sarah Steelman and Kenny Hulshof sprang from the southwest corner across the rest of the state in a final push toward Tuesday’s primary election.

Hulshof, a congressman, and Steelman, the state treasurer, both began Monday by campaigning in Springfield, the largest population center in Missouri’s most predominantly Republican area. They then made Joplin-area visits just a few hours apart before traveling toward Missouri’s biggest cities.

Their close race tops the Republican primary ballot on Tuesday. Attorney General Jay Nixon is expected to claim the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in a lightly contested primary.

For voters picking a Democratic ballot, the hottest race may be for attorney general, where the winner among Rep. Margaret Donnelly, Rep. Jeff Harris and Sen. Chris Koster will advance to face unopposed Republican Sen. Mike Gibbons in the November general election.

Democrats also have a four-way treasurer’s primary, with the winner facing unopposed Republican Sen. Brad Lager.

Voters in the 9th Congressional District have primaries featuring multiple Republican and Democratic candidates seeking to succeed Hulshof.

Missouri has open primaries, meaning voters can choose any party ballot without having to register as a Democrat, Republican or Libertarian. But they can vote only in one party’s primary.

Election officials are projecting a turnout of 31 percent of the registered voters. By comparison, the August 2004 primaries drew a 36 percent turnout topped by a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and a Democratic gubernatorial challenge.

Hulshof and Steelman got into the governor’s race only after Republican Gov. Matt Blunt stunned supporters and opponents alike by announcing Jan. 22 that he will not seek re-election this year.

Hulshof, 50, of Columbia, is former special prosecutor in the attorney general’s office who unseated longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Harold Volkmer in 1996 and has remained in the House ever since.

Steelman, 50, of Rolla, is an economist who unseated longtime Democratic state Sen. Mike Lybyer in 1998 and was in the middle of her second Senate term when she won election in 2004 as treasurer.

On the campaign trail Monday, Hulshof said he was stressing his economic development plans and his contrasting positions with Nixon.

"When folks look at who is best to take on a very tough Democratic challenger in November, I offer the best prospect," Hulshof said in a telephone interview after a campaign stop at the Lawrence County Courthouse.

Steelman said she was presenting herself as "the true conservative in the race" while talking about tax relief and her proposal to repeal Missouri’s ethanol mandate for gasoline.

"I want people to know that I’m going to advocate for them," Steelman said in a telephone interview while on her way to campaign at the Joplin Regional Stockyards.

Steelman also planned to campaign Monday at Kansas City’s Union Station and at a popular ice cream shop in Jefferson City, where she grew up.

Hulshof also was campaigning in St. Louis County, which is not far from the eastern edge of his congressional district, before wrapping up in his home town of Columbia.

Both gubernatorial candidates planned a relatively quite Election Day.

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