Cape Girardeau's Wallingford considering run for 3rd Senate District

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rep. Wayne Wallingford is seriously considering a run at Missouri's 3rd District Senate seat, which -- if he does it -- would create a three-way Republican primary next August.

Wallingford, a Cape Girardeau Republican, acknowledged Wednesday that he began mulling such a run this week, after news broke that Rep. Ellen Brandom, R-Sikeston, Mo., would run for the 25th District instead of in the 3rd.

Wallingford's phone began to ring with calls from community officials, GOP leaders and even one legislator imploring him to run, he said.

While Wallingford declined to name them, he told the Southeast Missourian they were "people you know very well and probably people you don't know."

The people who called told Wallingford he had a "perfect background" for the Senate, which is also alluring because it has four-year terms instead of two and comes with more influence. The House has 163 members, and the Senate has 34 members.

Wallingford said he plans to pray and consider whether to run and that he hopes to make an announcement by the middle of January.

Both the 27th and the 3rd districts have been reconfigured by redistricting, done every 10 years based on census data. In the existing 27th District, Sen. Jason Crowell represents Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Madison, Mississippi, Perry and Scott counties. Crowell is forced out by term limits next year.

The 3rd District includes Cape Girardeau, Perry, Ste. Genevieve and St. Francois counties. The boundary changes take effect following next November's general election.

Wallingford, 65, was first elected to the House in 2010, following a 25-year U.S. Air Force career that included a four-year stint teaching aerospace science at Southeast Missouri State University. He's worked 18 years in the restaurant industry, most recently as an executive for a company that owns local McDonald's franchises.

If Wallingford runs, he will face at least two other Republicans in the Aug. 7 primary -- former state representative Pat Naeger of Perryville, Mo., and Farmington, Mo., businessman Gary Romine.

And there may even be one more. On Wednesday, Rep. Donna Lichtenegger, R-Jackson, wouldn't rule out a run for the 3rd District seat. She said she has considered it in the past but had no comment about whether it was still under consideration.

"I will say I'm keeping my options open right now," she said.

In his decision, Wallingford said he has much to consider. If he opts for a Senate run and loses, he's out of the legislature altogether. So far, no one else has declared for his House seat, which is currently the 158th District but will become the new 147th District next year.

He also is trying to figure out where he'd be the most effective.

While Wallingford said no one has tried to dissuade him from running for the Senate, not everyone thinks it's such a great idea.

Wallingford can better serve Cape Girardeau in the House, said Holly Lintner, the Republican committee chairwoman for the Senate's 27th District. The 158th District has been a "revolving door" since Nathan Cooper left office and it needs some stability, she said.

"Cape Girardeau has a very good state rep in Wayne Wallingford," she said. "Cape benefits from keeping Wayne where he is."

Wallingford has a good shot, she said, of working his way up to higher leadership posts in the House. While she knows there's some concern about having the next senator be from Cape Girardeau, she said there shouldn't be.

Either Romine or Naeger understand that Cape Girardeau is an important part of their district, she said.

"I think they will represent us just fine," she said. "People who are encouraging Wayne to run for Senate really are not thinking this through."

For his part, Wallingford said a senator should represent his entire district and whether he's from Cape Girardeau shouldn't be a factor. At the same time, he understands that constituents are more comfortable with someone closer to home.

"There's a comfort level knowing somebody who has already proved himself over the last year working in the capital," Wallingford said. "They've had a year to watch me and see that I stand for the same conservative values of the majority of the people I represent."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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