Sarah Steelman has made ethics reform the centerpiece of her campaign for the Republican primary race for governor. Her opponent on the Republican ballot, Ken Hulshof, has been able to tout his own history as an ethics reformer, though the fervor with which his party’s regulars have embraced him has undercut that message.

His real weakness is that despite conservative credentials on taxes or social issues, he’s run wild with the GOP crowd that just won’t relinquish the pork. Which is of course why Roy Blunt (who pioneered House earmarks) and Christopher Bond (who sits at earmark central, the Senate appropriations committee) love him.

Steelman’s ads have noted Mr. Hulshof’s support for the Alaskan Bridge to Nowhere, the Maine Lobster Institute, the Perfect Christmas Tree exhibit and the Woodstock concert hall. Their first debate centered on Hulshof’s spending record. In an interview with a local reporter, he felt so cornered that he asked the interviewer what earmarks have “to do” with being “governor” anyway.

Hulshof’s congressional protectors have proved equally amusing. In their statement, Messrs. Blunt, Bond and Graves, as well as Reps. Jo Ann Emerson and Todd Akin, told the public it was perfectly O.K. Hulshof had voted for earmarks — because they’d voted for them too.

Don Stubblefield

Carthage

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