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Purgason considers running for GOP nomination for U.S. Senate to replace Bond

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 17, 2009 - Missouri state Sen. Chuck Purgason says he's looking at the U.S. Senate bid in 2010 because of the money. Not campaign money, but the people's money -- $55 trillion, to be exact.

Purgason, R-Caulfield, said in a telephone interview today that the $55 trillion represents the federal government's unfunded liability for the national debt, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. 

"We've got a government that continues to spend and uses a credit card" to finance its operations, he said.

Purgason said it's time for that to stop and he believes he's the person to do it.

He said he's seen how states like Missouri are being forced by the federal government to take on spending they can't afford. He noted that most states, like Missouri, can't run deficits -- while the federal government can.

"It's getting to where it's impossible for the states to keep up," Purgason said.

Purgason, 49, has been in the state Legislature for 13 years. His current Senate term runs through 2012, so he has little political risk in running for something else in 2010.

Purgason, who operates a hatchery when not in the state Capitol, long has had a reputation as a fiscal conservative. He said he's been getting a lot of encouragement from people he runs into on the street and in the coffeehouse because he is perceived as more closely reflecting their financial concerns.

He did not mention by name the only announced Republican running for U.S. senator, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Strafford, but the implication was clear. Sen. Christopher S. Bond, R-Mo., is retiring and not running for re-election. 

Purgason said that he has not talked to the state Republican Party about his actions. He confided only in his wife, some close friends and allies in the legislature before issuing a statement earlier today announcing he has set up an exploratory committee with the Federal Elections Commission.

Such a committee limits how much he can spend. Purgason said he's giving himself until next February, when candidate filing begins, to make a final decision -- although he may decide earlier.

"I'm testing the waters and will see how it goes," Purgason said.

Purgason is Blunt's latest unwanted rival for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate. Former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman has yet to announce her intentions, but Blunt's allies succeeded last week in persuading Washington University visiting law professor Thomas Schweich to drop his possible bid.

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