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State Auditor challenges Holden in bid for governorship

October 20, 2003
By: Kate Amburgey
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - For the second time in Missouri history, an incumbent Democratic governor will face significant opposition in a primary race for the gubernatorial nomination.

Claire McCaskill officially announced Monday her candidacy in the race for governor at her high school alma mater- Hickman High School.

McCaskill began her campaign trail with an announcement in Kansas City followed by announcements in Columbia and St. Louis.

"Missourians have lost confidence in leadership in Jefferson City," McCaskill said. "The governor has to bring the state and the people together again."

This is the second time in Missouri history that an incumbent governor is facing significant opposition from his own party.

Calling it the "greatest surprise [McCaskill's] had in months," former Gov. Roger Wilson announced his endorsement of McCaskill's campaign in his introduction of the state auditor.

"She always has her eye on progress," Wilson said and called McCaskill the solution to the state's budget and economic crises.

"There are certain qualities needed to run a state with an $18 billion economy and 60,000 employees," Wilson said. "The management skills and leadership abilities Claire has would put her first on that list which is why I'm endorsing her."

Focusing on schools, unemployment, and road deterioration, McCaskill pledged to bring the "record of accomplishment and a theme of accountability" of her previous government positions to the governor's office.

She served four terms in the State House of Representatives and five years as Jackson County prosecutor until she was elected State Auditor in 1998.

It was in her role as state auditor's, she says, that she gained the skills that the governor's office is currently missing.

"Finding places that government is behaving badly, misplaced priorities, wasted tax dollars, for the past five years I have tried to figure out ways that government can do better," she said.

Some Democrats worry that the primary race will politically and financially weaken the Democrats' chance to retain the governorship in the general election.

"The primary will cause infighting within the party and it takes money away from other campaigns, whether it be from other candidates or in the general election," Sen. Harry Kennedy, D-St. Louis, said.

McCaskill says not to worry.

"I am going to keep this a positive campaign with strong leaders and good ideas that won't be damaging to the party," she said.

McCaskill says she hopes to debate Gov. Holden at least six times before the primary election.

The Missouri Democratic Party Communications Director, Jim Gardner, says that elections hinge on the ideas of the party, not necessarily the candidate behind them.

Still, some Democratic senators and representatives say they plan to continue their support of Gov. Holden.

"Gov. Holden did as good a job as anyone could do under the circumstances," Rep Marsha Campbell, D-Jackson County, said."The fact that he stuck to his beliefs will help him with his base constituency."

Should McCaskill win the nomination and the general election, she would be Missouri's first female governor.

"I can remember Claire saying that she would be the first female governor of Missouri when we were roommates in law school," said Christy Welliver, an ardent supporter who came out to see her old roommate's announcement. "She's had a game plan for a long time."

The AP contributed to this story.