Rep. Ellen Brandom kicks off campaign for state Senate

Sunday, June 3, 2012
Rep. Ellen Brandom, R-Sikeston, left, talks with Greg Boldrey of Sikeston, Mo., during an open house Saturday at her campaign headquarters at 1621 Independence St. in Cape Girardeau. Brandom is running for the Republican nomination for the Missouri Senate’s 27th District seat. (ADAM VOGLER)

Rep. Ellen Brandom has a few distinct advantages over her opponent at this point in the race for Missouri Senate -- she's been campaigning longer, has raised significantly more money and has served in the Missouri legislature three times as long.

Still, the Sikeston Republican said Saturday she would never label herself the front-runner.

"I'm not ever that presumptuous," Brandom said. "I've certainly been working hard on this. I just don't do labels like that. Whatever happens, the best solution is to run like you're behind."

Brandom hosted an open house Saturday at her new Cape Girardeau campaign headquarters on Independence Street, greeting 120 to 150 attendees, according to campaign organizers. Her event came two weeks after her opponent, Rep. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, kicked off his campaign for the 27th District seat. The winner will be determined in the Aug. 7 Republican primary.

Saturday's event comes nearly a year after Brandom announced she would seek outgoing Sen. Jason Crowell's seat, an event where she was introduced by Wallingford. But redistricting split the district for a time, pushing Brandom into a district that did not include Cape Girardeau County. That's when Wallingford announced he was going to run and he didn't back out when the final boundaries had he and Brandom in the same district.

The 27th District is made up of Cape Girardeau, Scott, Bollinger, Perry, Madison and Wayne counties.

Brandom, who spent 32 years as the owner of a petroleum distribution company, has served in the Missouri House since 2006, and Wallingford has served since 2010. She also has outdistanced him in contributions with $155,000 more total cash on hand than he does, according to quarterly campaign finance reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

On Saturday, Brandom, 70, said creating jobs, loosening government regulations on business and protecting right-to-life laws would be her priority. She is perhaps best known for getting a bill passed that requires drug testing for certain welfare recipients.

But Wallingford, an Air Force veteran with a background in the restaurant business and health care administration, said Saturday that he believes he has better name recognition in Cape Girardeau County, where 53 percent of the district's Republican voters live. That's why, Wallingford said, so many of Brandom's large political signs have begun popping up in recent weeks. Wallingford said he was even aware of a poll Brandom's campaign had conducted that revealed Brandom had low name recognition here and many Wallingford supporters.

"I have a strong foothold in Cape Girardeau and Cape Girardeau County," said Wallingford, 65. "Only 12 percent of the voters come from Scott County. I think that's why we've held the Senate seat for the last 20 years."

Wallingford noted that he has narrowed the fundraising gap somewhat, by collecting $61,140 from Jan. 1 to March 31, compared to Brandom's contributions of $36,255 over the same period. Earlier this week, Brandom contributed $25,000 to her own campaign, according to a state filing required to be reported within 48 hours.

Wallingford has also called Brandom's voting record into question, pointing out that Brandom has been given a "mixed" rating by Missouri Right to Life.

On Saturday, Brandom defended her record.

"Since being a representative starting in 2006, I have always fought for the unborn and the life of the unborn," Brandom said. "As a senator, I will continue that fight."

A campaign worker handed a flier to a reporter called "The Rating Problem at Missouri Right to Life" that called its ranking system "broken." The votes that the rankings are based on don't have anything to do with the pro-life agenda, according to the sheet. The problem centers on the funding of cloning. A three-page listing of Brandom's pro-life votes was also distributed that dated to 2007.

The issue seems likely to emerge again throughout the campaign.

Meanwhile, several of Brandom's supporters at the Saturday event said she is the best candidate.

"She's done a good job as a rep," said Greg Boldrey of Sikeston, Mo. "I think she'll do a good job as a senator. She listens to everybody. She responds and she gets things done."

Kristi King, the Cape Girardeau County coordinator for her campaign, said Brandom's jump start has given her candidate the edge so far. They've already bought television and radio advertisements and have had more time to go door to door, she said. She also thought Brandom's more time as a lawmaker makes her more qualified.

"Six years versus two," King said. "That does mean a lot to people. She also has a good heart -- a servant's heart. She's also a walking bundle of wisdom."

smoyers@semissourian.com

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Pertinent address:

1621 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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