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Stronger-than-expected candidate filing numbers may reflect GOP surge, Democratic slump

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 1, 2010 - Despite reports to the contrary, this year's final candidate tally in Missouri is the largest since 2002 -- even outpacing those in the last two presidential-election years.

A key reason? A last-minute surge in Republican candidates.

As of Tuesday's filing deadline, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan's office reported that 581 Missouri candidates have filed for state, legislative and congressional offices on the ballot in this year's August primaries and November general election.

The partisan breakdown: 303 Republican candidates, 223 Democratic candidates, 28 Libertarian candidates, and 27 Constitution Party candidates.

The 581 total is Missouri's largest since 2002, when 618 people filed for state, legislative or congressional posts in the state during the filing period. (A secretary of state spokesman emphasizes that the actual number who appeared on the ballot in those years was slightly different, because of withdrawals or occasional last-minute additions after the official filing period.)

This year's total, during a non-presidential election year, is larger than the last such year -- 2006, which saw 548 candidates file during the filing period. This year's total is even more than the presidential-year filings in 2004 (553) or 2008 (487 candidates).

But even more notable is this year's number of Republican candidates. The 303 total is the state's largest for state, congressional or legislative offices since at least 2000, according to the secretary of state's records. In 2008, 210 Republicans filed; 2006 saw 251 GOP candidates

In contrast, this year's Democratic total of 223 is the smallest in at least a decade. In 2008, 256 Democratic candidates filed during the period, while 279 Democrats did so in 2006.

Dave Robertson, a political science professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said this year's numbers appear to underscore the obvious.

"The most obvious cause is that everyone understands the Republicans are in a very strong position this year, and Democrats are their weakest since 1994,'' Robertson said.

As a result, he added, Republican candidates are enthusiastic about running and would-be Democrats are apparently not.

But Robertson also sees something else in the strong Republican filing numbers. "It will be interesting to see if it indicates a surge of conservative activists fueled by the Tea Parties,'' he said.

The coming months should provide an answer, he said, as campaigns gear up and candidates of both parties make their views clear.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.