A smaller than usual number of candidates signed up Tuesday for the August primary elections as Missouri's 2014 campaign season officially got underway.
The apparent lack of interest may be due to a general lack of opportunity. Missouri has just one statewide office up for election this year. And the number of state legislative seats being forced open by term limits is down significantly from four years ago, when Missouri set a record for the number of candidates filing for office on opening day.
Missouri's candidacy filing period runs from Tuesday through March 25. But the first day has historically been the busiest, partly because of tradition and partly because first-day filers get to participate in a lottery draw to determine who is listed first on the ballot for each office.
This year, a total of 287 candidates filed paperwork on the opening day of candidacy filing. That's the lowest number since 274 filed on the first day possible in 1998 and slightly fewer than the 292 who filed on opening day in 1996, when Missouri first instituted the lottery draw as a way to discourage overnight campouts at the secretary of state's office.
Missouri has no U.S. Senate or gubernatorial election his year. That means the state auditor's office will be at the top of the ballot. Republican incumbent Tom Schweich was the only person to file for auditor Tuesday. No Democrat has publicly expressed an intention to challenge him.
"I'm glad that, as of at least the first day, I'm running unopposed," Schweich told The Associated Press.
The Republican Party, which holds commanding majorities in the state House and Senate, attracted by far the most candidates. The secretary of state's office said 191 Republicans filed for various federal, state and judicial offices on Tuesday, compared with 91 Democrats, four Libertarians and one Constitution Party candidate.
First-day filers reached into a glass fish tank to draw papers containing numbers between one and 998. Those with the lowest numbers will be listed first on the ballot. Candidates who sign up on subsequent days will be listed in the order in which they file.
This year's ballot will include all eight of the state's U.S. House seats and all 163 Missouri House seats, along with half of the 34 state Senate seats.
Among the first in line at the secretary of state's office Tuesday was U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, of suburban St. Louis, who is seeking re-election to a second term. For her, candidate filing was a two-day event. Wagner hosted a reception Monday for Republican lawmakers and also attended an event with numerous other politicians at the Missouri Farm Bureau headquarters.
Then Wagner joined GOP Missouri House members at an early Tuesday caucus meeting at the state Capitol before filing her candidacy paperwork. The caucus provided a way to introduce new candidates to incumbents.
There was a "lot of talk about family and unity and how to run a civil primary on the issues," Wagner said.
The first person in line was state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a Democrat from St. Louis. She arrived at the secretary of state's office more than an hour and a half before filing began.
"It's my winning tradition," Chappelle-Nadal said. "People say showing up is half the battle. Showing up early is very important - it's part of the work ethic. People appreciate that."
Candidates said the filing process generally went smoothly. Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander, who was overseeing his first filing day, said his staff repeatedly rehearsed the filing process during the past week.