Blunt announces Senate run, says GOP needs to keep 'speed bump' in front of Democrats

Thursday, February 19, 2009
KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com
Roy Blunt announces his candidacy for the U.S. Senate on Thursday at the Common Pleas Courthouse in Cape Girardeau.

A Republican victory in Missouri's open U.S. Senate seat will be vital to maintaining a "speed bump" in the way of Democratic Party initiatives, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt said several times Thursday as he announced he will seek the job in 2010.

Blunt, a former Missouri secretary of state who has been in Congress since 1996, spoke to about 40 Republican Party activists and community leaders in a Cape Girardeau stop at the Common Pleas Courthouse. During his remarks, Blunt emphasized he wants to balance the Democratic dominance in the House, Senate and White House.

"Fundamentally, Missourians don't want Washington, D.C., Democrats to run the country," Blunt said.

Blunt is making his first statewide run since losing the GOP primary for governor in 1992. He will campaign to replace U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, a Republican who was first elected in 1986.

The recent votes on President Obama's $789 billion economic stimulus bill is an example of where a few votes can be important, Blunt said. The GOP has 41 Senate seats, enough to block major legislation if party unity is maintained. But when three Republicans in the Senate voted with the Democrats, the opportunity to block or rewrite the stimulus bill was lost, Blunt said.

"I voted against it, all the Republic in the House voted against it, and all the Republicans in the Senate voted against it except for three," Blunt said. "And when you subtract those three out, suddenly that obstacle, that speed bump that is so important that we keep there, is not there."

During the appearance in Cape Girardeau, Blunt said he had strived for bipartisanship during his House tenure, which included six years in the House Republican leadership. "When we were in the majority, everything had to be bipartisan because we had such narrow majorities that we could never pass anything in the House, except the budget, that didn't have some Democratic votes," he said.

During his more than 20 years in office, Bond has become adept at bringing home money for Missouri, whether it is securing a bigger portion of federal highway funds or obtaining earmarked appropriations for specific projects. In contrast, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat elected in 2006, has denounced earmarks and pledged not to ask for any earmarked appropriations.

Blunt said he will work to emulate Bond when it comes to finding money.

"I will transparently fight for things that are good for Missouri, just like I have as a House member," Blunt said. "We are going to compete. I'm not going to unilaterally disarm and say, 'All you other senators take whatever you want for your state, but Missouri doesn't have anybody who's gong to be fighting for them.' That won't be me. I am going to be out there competing for our state."

No other Republicans have announced their intention to seek Bond's seat, but former state treasurer Sarah Steelman, who lost the GOP nomination for governor last year, issued a statement Thursday that she is still considering the contest.

"I am continuing to explore a run for U.S. Senate because hardworking men and women who love this country are looking for a better way," Steelman said. "Missourians know we have to hold people accountable for their bad decisions: the bailouts, the earmarks, the self-dealing and the cozy relationships between congressmen and lobbyists." John Voss, chairman of the Cape Girardeau County Republican Central Committee, said after attending Blunt's announcement that the GOP should try to avoid a primary. "I would certainly like to see us have a single candidate," he said. "Roy is a terrific candidate."

The announcement could set up a clash between two prominent political families. Blunt, who began his political career as Greene County clerk, is the son of the late state representative Leroy Blunt and father of former governor Matt Blunt.

Democrats appear to be lining up behind Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, who has already announced her plan to run. Carnahan is the daughter of the late governor Mel Carnahan and former U.S. senator Jean Carnahan, the granddaughter of U.S. representative A.S.J. Carnahan and sister of current U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan.

"Representative Blunt, who's been in Washington a long time, will have some things to answer for," Carnahan told the Associated Press. "He's been in leadership at a time when our country has gotten into a pretty big financial mess."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

rkeller@semissourian.com

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