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Candidate filing begins in earnest in Jefferson City, around the state

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 23, 2010 - At 2:30 p.m. today, with no more lines of would-be candidates snaking around the state's Kirkpatrick State Information Center, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan officially filed for office herself -- as a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Carnahan ended up being the last of the day's marquee candidates who had shown up in Jefferson City for Missouri's first day of filing for the elections in August and November.

But the news wasn't just who filed, but how many. The first-day crowd of 417 filers set a record as the largest candidate contingent in at least a decade. Most filed during the morning, packing the building's halls in a festival atmosphere of nonpartisanship.

Carnahan filed after the crowd had died down, a half-hour after state Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield. He was one of the nine Republicans who filed today for the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by GOP incumbent Christopher "Kit" Bond, who is retiring after this year.

The best-known Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Springfield, filed around 12:30 p.m.

So far, Carnahan is the only prominent Democrat to file for Bond's seat.

Also filing during the lunchtime lull was state Auditor Susan Montee, a Democrat, and one of her GOP rivals, St. Louis lawyer Tom Schweich.

State House Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin, officially became a candidate for the state Senate in the 32nd District just a few minutes before Carnahan filed her paperwork. He said he ran over during a break in the House proceedings.

The candidate-filing air was congenial. But partisan politics also was evident.

The state Republican Party, or Blunt's campaign, stationed a "tracker' '' today to videotape Carnahan's every move about the Kirkpatrick Center outside of her private office.

The tracker, who would only give his first name of Craig, sat on a couch while Carnahan officially filed for the Senate -- and then jumped to continue his filming when she emerged.

State Democratic Party spokesman Ryan Hobart confirmed that his party had a tracker following Blunt around as well.

Crowd Of Candidates Show Up To File

State Rep. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, was officially the first Missouri candidate in line to file for office this morning among the crowd of candidates flocking to Jefferson City for the first day of filing for this year's primary in August and the general election in November.

But because Chappelle-Nadal got snagged by reporters, another candidate behind her -- state Rep. Vicki Englund, D-Mehlville -- ended up being the first Missouri candidate actually to file for office today.

Such was the usual chaos in the secretary of state's Kirkpatrick State Information Center, about two blocks from the state Capitol, for the regular once-every-two-years trek of candidates for the Legislature, Congress or statewide office, who must go to Jefferson City to file.

Other candidates can file beginning today with their local election authorities. Filing continues through March 30.

In St, Louis County, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, a Democrat, filed for re-election. So did county Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch and County Councilwoman Hazel Erby, D-1sth District. Also filing in the county was Republican Randy Jotte, who's running for the 5th District council seat, and Libertarian Theodis Brown, who is challenging Dooley.

Later today, Dooley's announced Republican challenger -- lawyer Bill Corrigan -- also filed at the county Election Board headquarters in Maplewood.

Back in Jefferson City, first-filer Englund filed for re-election in the 85th House District. Chappelle-Nadal made good on her plans to run for the state Senate instead of re-election.

Chappelle-Nadal is seeking the Senate seat to be vacated by Sen. Rita Days, D-Bel Nor, who can't seek re-election because of term limits. By the end of today, three other Democrats -- Reps. Ted Hoskins and Don Calloway, and University City Mayor Joe Adams -- also had filed for the seat in the Democratic-leaning 14th District.

Others near the front of the early-morning filing line included two members of Congress: U.S. Reps. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, and Emanuel Cleaver, D-Kansas City. Carnahan said both would be heading to Washington right after they filed.

Carnahan shook hands with his Republican rival, St. Louis lawyer Ed Martin, who walked over as they waited in line.

By 3 p.m., 381 candidates had been processed. By the 5 p.m. closing, the number had jumped to 417.

That's significantly more than in 2008, when 317 candidates showed up in Jefferson City for the first day of filing.

In 2006, the last non-presidential election year, 360 filed on the first day.

Aside from the tradition and the party atmosphere, the first-day filing attraction, in part, is the possibility of being first on the ballot for the post they are seeking. Experts long have maintained that a candidate at the top of the ballot attracts some votes just by being first.

Former state Rep. Jack Jackson, R-Wildwood, said he showed up today to file not only because he hopes for a good spot on the ballot. "I wanted to show my commitment. I'm not waiting to file. I'm here,'' Jackson said.

Lottery replaced even wilder circus

Since 1996, candidates in Missouri have participated in a lottery system in which all first-day filers pick a number from a bowl. At 5 p.m., the candidates are then listed on the ballot according to their number.

Candidates who file after today will be listed in the order that they filed.

For the last 10 years, the League of Women Voters has hosted a table filled with goodies -- cookies, carrot cake and cheese are among this year's offerings -- for would-be candidates and others (including the press posted at the next table).

"Somebody needs to feed these people," quipped League board member Jo Sapp, among the volunteer workers. "They need sustenance."

The lottery system was originally the idea of now-U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, secretary of state from 1985-93, who wanted to get rid of the old system where candidates hired stand-ins to hold places in line for weeks or even months. Blunt contended that it was unseemly.

For the 1992 election, for example, then-state Sen. Jay Nixon started the line in late 1991 in his Democratic bid then to run for Missouri attorney general. Blunt unsuccessfully tried to force Nixon to leave. When Nixon refused, Blunt jumped in behind him to be first in line to file for the Republican nomination for governor. A Blunt campaign aide rushed over to relieve him. Nixon ended up hiring a stand-in.

The episode caused a fracas because another Republican contender for governor in 1992 and the eventual nominee, then-Attorney General Bill Webster, was angry over Blunt's action and contended that he would have started the candidate line first but had taken Blunt at his word that there would be no weeks-long line.

This time, Blunt, R-Springfield, showed up around 11 a.m. to file for the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by Bond, who is retiring after this term. It took about 90 minutes for Blunt to make his way through the line and file. 

Blunt recalled that the courts originally blocked his effort to prevent the once-months-long lines, which he noted originally used to snake around the halls of the state Capitol. "I didn't think it was necessary," Blunt said.

He added that it didn't bother him to wait in line today. "I can be here for the first day like everybody else," the congressman said, shaking hands with other candidates as he waited his turn.

Before filing herself, Carnahan spent much of the day performing her usual duty of greeting other candidates as they stood in line in the hall outside her office.

Carnahan intentionally planned to file in mid-afternoon, when she knew things would be settled down -- and the line shorter.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.