Local Columnists

August 29, 2014

Steve Kraske: Claire McCaskill flirts with a run for Missouri governor

She has long viewed herself as executive timber well qualified to become the first woman governor in Missouri history. All signs point to Missouri’s senior senator taking a hard look at running for the state’s top job in 2016.

Running for the U.S. Senate was never a sure thing for Claire McCaskill.

She had to be courted.

The story goes that she was so resistant to the idea that it took an extraordinary intervention from Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who in 2005 headed the Democratic recruiting committee.

So determined was the very determined Schumer to score McCaskill that he flew to London, where her family was vacationing. It was there she signed up.

McCaskill has long viewed herself as executive timber well qualified to become the first woman governor in Missouri history. She had been a legislator in the Missouri House, and she knew what it was like to be but one member of a very large body.

She wanted the top perch.

That’s why she ran for governor in 2004, defeating Gov. Bob Holden in the Democratic primary, then moving into November thinking she had the race won. An unexpectedly poor showing in rural Missouri gave the race to Republican Matt Blunt.

McCaskill has shown great flexibility in her long career, and she has shown it again as she has tackled her Senate work with gusto.

That said, the events of recent weeks suggest that she still dreams of being governor. She is, in fact, dropping hints all over the state that she wants to at least have a conversation about it. This week, she went out of her way to weigh in on a state issue by criticizing the governor of her own party for not having more African-Americans in his cabinet.

This month, she made appearance after appearance in the national media as Ferguson burned. It looked to some like a deliberate attempt to outshine Gov. Jay Nixon, who struggled in many of his interviews. Turns out, she did.

In July, she raised $240,000 to elect more Democrats to Missouri’s General Assembly.

Don’t overlook the fact that Democrats in the U.S. Senate, including McCaskill, may well be in the no-fun minority following the November elections.

On the surface, though, there’s a big obstacle. His name is Chris Koster. The fellow Democrat and two-term attorney general of Missouri happens to be an already well-funded candidate for governor.

But he is something else, too — a former Republican whose ties to his new party don’t run nearly as deep as McCaskill’s lifelong connections. A primary almost certainly wouldn’t happen. If it did, the betting line is heavily pro-McCaskill.

First things first. She has to say she wants the job. This time, though, Chuck Schumer probably wouldn’t have to push her.

To reach Steve Kraske, call 816-234-4312 or send email to skraske@kcstar.com.

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