(Fred Lynch) [Order this photo]
And while the first-term Missouri House Republican said he believes he would have likely run unopposed if he had stayed put, he's never been one to play it safe.
"I could probably have skated through for eight years in the House, but that's not my style," Wallingford said. "I don't skate through."
Now, he faces a three-way Republican primary Aug. 7, when he will square off against former Perryville representative Pat Naeger and Farmington businessman Gary Romine.
If he wins, he moves to the more politically influential Senate. If he loses, he's out of the legislature altogether.
It's a political risk worth taking, Wallingford said Monday following a 9 a.m. news conference where he made official a decision he had been considering for weeks.
And it all comes down to the numbers: The state Senate has 34 members and the House has 163.
"I can more greatly influence legislation coming through, and if it's not something that I think is good for Missouri, I can work to defeat it," Wallingford said. "So, yeah, I think it's worth the risk."
The news conference was held at the local McDonald's corporate headquarters in Cape Girardeau, where Wallingford is an executive. Similar conferences were held Monday in Jackson, Farmington and Perryville.
Wallingford, 65, was surrounded by his wife, grandchildren and a gathering of about 60 supporters at the Cape Girardeau event.
"If elected, I will continue to be an advocate for pro-life legislation, oppose tax increases and work to eliminate government bureaucracy," he told the group. "That's my pledge to you."
Wallingford is hoping to represent the revised 3rd Senate District, a vacant seat covering Cape Girardeau, Perry, St. Francois and Ste. Genevieve counties. The Senate's former 27th District was represented by Jason Crowell, who is being forced out by term limits.
The 27th District included the counties of Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Madison, Mississippi, Perry and Scott before last year's redistricting. The new districts will take effect with the 2012 election.
Wallingford acknowledged that, when it comes to fundraising, he's got work to do. January finance reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission show Wallingford with $4,273.79 cash on hand. Naeger, who just declared his candidacy last month, had $11,500 in cash that was collected in an 11-day period in December. Romine, who has been running for the 3rd District for two years, has $88,456.81, although it shows that $30,000 of that amount was from loans.
Wallingford recognizes a Senate campaign cannot look like a campaign for the House.
"If I run my Senate campaign the same way I ran my House campaign, I lose," Wallingford said. "It's going to take money to win, and I know that I'm going to be playing catch-up."
Still, Wallingford hopes that his resume will convince voters he's the best man for the job. During his speech Monday, Wallingford pointed to his 25-year U.S. Air Force career that included a four-year stint teaching aerospace science at Southeast Missouri State University. He's also worked 18 years in the restaurant industry.
He's also the only sitting legislator running for the seat.
"In the House, I've been a consistent, conservative voice for the unborn, a strong voice to defend property rights and a strong voice for Second Amendment rights," he said. "I'm ready to support common-sense measures to help businesses grow. I want to make sure we have fewer government bureaucrats and less red tape."
Cape Girardeau County Republican Party chairman Evan Trump said that he has no doubt Wallingford will shake up the race. While the county party won't endorse any one candidate, he does think it will be close.
"I think it's going to be a close race between the three," Trump said. "I know the one I want to throw my support behind, but I'm going to save that for the ballot box."
The filing period for Senate and House races runs from Feb. 28 to March 27.
528 Helena St., Cape Girardeau, MO