JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —
The 2014 bids are just beginning — filing for county and statewide offices opened Tuesday — but the 2016 race to be Missouri’s next governor is in full swing.
Catherine Hanaway, the first female speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives, announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination for governor less than two weeks ago — but nine months after current Attorney General Chris Koster confirmed his plans to seek the Democratic nomination.
Hanaway, now a partner at the St. Louis-based Husch Blackwell law firm, has been traveling the state, meeting voters and raising money for her 2016 bid.
Why such an early start?
“Go ask Koster. He started it,” Hanaway said last weekend in Springfield, campaigning at the Missouri Republican Party’s annual statewide gathering. “I don’t mean to sound like my 11-year-old, but last April, he (Koster) cleared the primary and has raised more than $1.6 million. He is vigorously campaigning to be the next governor. I got in because if we don’t catch up, we won’t catch up. Unless you start running, you’re never going to catch the guy in the race.”
Despite her early entrance, she could face a primary challenge. State Auditor Tom Schweich, who is up for re-election in November, is mulling his own bid, and activists have been urging St. Louis businessman and former U.S. Senate candidate John Brunner to make a bid.
Schweich has been critical of other candidates — including state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Columbia Republican who announced his bid for the Republican nomination for attorney general last year — for launching the 2016 campaign so early. He said he believes Republicans are wrong to let their focus shift away from the 2014 elections, including his own re-election.
“This is not good for the party or the candidates who make these premature announcements,” Schweich wrote in a fundraising email to supporters last year. “Declaring a candidacy more than three years before the 2016 elections undermines our 2014 effort, and it opens the 2016 candidates up to three years of media scrutiny.”
Hanaway said she was perplexed by that line of criticism.
“I don’t even understand that. It is not like people aren’t going to go vote for him. It’s not like he’s not raising money and people are being asked to pound in other signs,” she said. “There’s nothing that takes away from the 2014 effort to start looking further down the road.”
Schweich has said repeatedly that he is focused only on his 2014 re-election. But when Schweich, who doesn’t yet have an opponent and could easily win in November, announced his 2014 campaign team, it was a national firm that is most often involved in gubernatorial and U.S. Senate campaigns. He also has released an all-star lineup of fundraiser hosts in the lead-up to the 2014 election.