Updated 1:44 p.m.
Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) kicked off his Senate campaign today in St. Louis, touching off what is expected to be a competitive open-seat contest in the Show Me State in 2010.
The former House Minority Whip announced his bid for retiring Sen. Kit Bonds (R) seat at a learning center at an historically black college. His announcement kicks off a three-day statewide tour, which will take him from St. Louis to Jefferson City, Cape Girardeau and Carthage.
At a time when the only obstacle to one-party rule is 41 Republicans in the Senate, I will need no on-the-job training, Blunt said in a statement. I will insist from day one on speaking up for Missouri common sense, insisting on real accountability to taxpayers, and solving problems by looking to the people, not to bigger government and deficit spending that now is running totally out of control.
Blunt has represented his southwestern Missouri district for seven terms, but carries statewide name recognition in part from his son, former Gov. Matt Blunt (R), who decided not to run for re-election in 2008 after a single term in office.
Former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman (R) is also considering a Senate bid, although Blunt is considered the favored candidate of the partys political insiders. Former Sen. Jim Talent (R) announced last week that he would not run, clearing the field for Blunt and Steelman.
Steelman released a statement following Blunts announcement that did not mention the Congressman by name but made clear that if she runs she will campaign as a Washington outsider. Steelman ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for governor in 2008 on a plaform focused on being an establishment outsider.
I am continuing to explore a run for U.S. Senate because hard working 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 bail outs, the earmarks, the self-dealing and the cozy relationships between Congressmen and lobbyists. … Missouris next U.S. Senator must stand with them to credibly address our economic problems and demonstrate to Missourians that she has the courage to stand up to Washingtons power brokers.
Democrats appear likely to avoid a primary in 2010. Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan has the backing of national Democrats and is expected to be the only viable candidate to run for her partys nod.