By CHRIS BLANK
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - One of the Republican leaders of the Missouri House launched his campaign Monday for secretary of state, a high-profile post that oversees the state's elections and has often served as a stepping stone for higher office.
Missouri state Rep. Shane Schoeller became the third GOP candidate to formally announce for the post, citing his conservative philosophy and previous experience as an aide to Matt Blunt when he was secretary of state. Schoeller also worked for Republican U.S. Sens. John Ashcroft and Kit Bond.
Democrat Robin Carnahan announced last month that she would not seek a third term as secretary of state. Republican state Sens. Scott Rupp, of Wentzville, and Bill Stouffer, of Napton, also are running, as is Democratic Rep. Jason Kander, of Kansas City, who declared minutes after Carnahan's announcement.
The secretary of state oversees Missouri elections and also regulates securities, handles business registration, publishes state regulations and manages the state library and archives. Many of the Missouri's recent secretaries of state have run for higher statewide offices.
Schoeller said he would seek a requirement that voters show a photo ID at the polls and would work to minimize fees and regulations for new businesses. He also criticized the way the secretary of state's office has written ballot summaries for some initiative petitions and said that he would write fairer descriptions.
"The office of secretary of state oversees two of the most important, fundamental tenants of our nation: free enterprise and fair elections," Schoeller said. "I pledge to defend these sacred institutions by working to promote the growth of businesses and protect the integrity of our elections process."
Missouri lawmakers in recent years have considered a photo ID requirement for voting, which has been opposed by Carnahan. Earlier this year, the Legislature approved a proposed constitutional amendment for the 2012 ballot that would authorize a separate state law that allows for a photo ID requirement and an early voting period. Lawmakers also approved separate legislation to enact both, but the legislation was vetoed by the governor.
Schoeller, 40, is from Willard in southwestern Missouri and announced his candidacy at the courthouse in Greene County. He is the House speaker pro tem, which is a leadership position in that chamber, and was first elected to the Missouri Legislature in 2006.
Despite the entrance of another GOP candidate, Rupp said he has been getting support throughout the state, including in southwestern Missouri. Rupp said he has a good story to tell and that an additional candidate does not change it. Stouffer did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Kander said through his campaign that he looked forward to comparing views about how to manage the secretary of state's office with the other candidates and welcomed Schoeller to the race.
The most recent state campaign finance reports from July through September show that Schoeller could have some fundraising work to do.
Rupp raised $86,000 during the third quarter and had about $96,200 in his campaign bank account at the end of September. Stouffer raised just $29,000 but loaned his campaign $150,000 to give himself about $170,600 in available cash. Kander raised about $65,000 and reported nearly $233,000 in cash on-hand.
Schoeller raised nearly $46,000 and reported to have just over $38,000 in his campaign bank account.