It's not a free pass, but Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich will be running for re-election this year without any opposition from fellow Republicans or rival Democrats.
Missouri's candidate filing period ended Tuesday with Libertarian Sean O'Toole and Constitution Party candidate Rodney Farthing as Schweich's only challengers.
Schweich's campaign team said this marks the first time since at least 1878 that Democrats have failed to field a candidate for a statewide office in Missouri. Schweich said he was excited.
"The fact that Democrats could not field an opponent reflects the fact that I have tried to be an auditor for all Missourians - tough and aggressive but bipartisan," Schweich said in an interview. "And it also reflects that I'm a good fundraiser."
Schweich had about $662,000 in his campaign account at the start of the year. Since then, he has taken in more than $170,000 in donations of at least $5,000 apiece, according to online Missouri Ethics Commission records.
Schweich said he anticipates spending some of that on a traditional advertising campaign, even though he faces no challenge in the August primary and no Democrat in the November general election. But the lack of a Democratic opponent also could allow Schweich to carry over money for a potential gubernatorial campaign in 2016.
Former U.S. attorney and Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway already has declared her Republican candidacy for governor. Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster also is making preparations to run for governor in 2016, when Democratic incumbent Jay Nixon is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.
Schweich declined to comment Tuesday about a potential gubernatorial bid, saying he remains focused on the 2014 elections.
Democratic state Rep. Jay Swearingen, of Kansas City, had announced last September that he would challenge Schweich. But Swearingen changed his mind in mid-January, about a month before the official candidate filing period opened on Feb. 25.
Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Roy Temple said he tried but was unable to find a new auditor candidate. But Temple said that wasn't because everyone thought Schweich was doing a great job.
"I think it's more of a reflection that it was not a good time in the lives of people who could credibly make a state auditor run," Temple said.
Schweich, 53, is seeking his second four-year term after defeating incumbent Democratic Auditor Susan Montee in 2010. This is Schweich's first elected office. He previously worked in the U.S. State Department as an international law enforcement official and coordinated anti-drug and justice reform efforts in Afghanistan. Schweich also served as chief of staff to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and as chief of staff to John Danforth when the former U.S. senator from Missouri was appointed in 1999 to head a federal investigation into the Branch Davidian siege at Waco, Texas.
A total of 429 candidates filed for federal and state offices this year in Missouri. That's the lowest number in records dating back a couple of decades, easily finishing behind the previous low of 487 candidates who filed in 2008.
The auditor's race is the top office on Missouri's 2014 ballot, because there is no election for U.S. Senate, governor or most other statewide executive offices. As is the case every two years, the ballot will include races for half of the state Senate and all of Missouri's U.S. and state House seats.
Of this year's candidates, 237 filed as Republicans, 163 as Democrats, 20 as Libertarians and nine under the Constitution Party label.