- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Republican Jay Ashcroft announced his candidacy for secretary of state Thursday, setting up a GOP primary battle for the office that oversees Missouri’s elections and business registrations.

Ashcroft declared his candidacy just hours after Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander said he plans to run for U.S. Senate instead of another term as secretary in 2016. Republican state Sen. Will Kraus, who had announced his candidacy for secretary of state last year, reaffirmed Thursday that he is committed to the race.

“Missouri is desperately in need of leaders who will fight for our state’s common sense conservative values,” Ashcroft said in an emailed statement. “I will work to protect the integrity of our elections while ensuring the office’s business functions are streamlined to allow Missouri employers to focus on what they do best: creating businesses and jobs.”

The St. Louis attorney and engineer is the son of former governor, U.S. Senator and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Jay Ashcroft has also tried, so far unsuccessfully, to break into politics.

Democratic state Sen. Jill Schupp of Creve Coeur, a former representative, narrowly defeated Ashcroft in November for the Senate seat, a large victory for Democrats during a year of GOP wins in Missouri.

Ashcroft’s defeat was the only Senate seat previously held by a Republican that the GOP lost to Democrats last election, which otherwise brought a record number of Republicans to the House and a solid veto-proof majority to the Senate.

Ashcroft now faces fellow Republican Kraus of Lee’s Summit, who announced his candidacy for secretary of state in July.

“Today’s announcement by the secretary of state that he will not run for re-election will not change my priorities or my direction, nor will the emergence of any primary opponent,” Kraus said in a written statement. “We need a new leader, accustomed to taking on the hard fights, in the office of secretary of state.”

Kraus was the sponsor of an income tax cut measure that the Republican-led Legislature enacted last year by overriding a veto by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

Kraus also has handled numerous election bills, including an unsuccessful photo ID measure and a failed proposal for a constitutional amendment allowing a limited early voting period.

The Senate on Thursday approved a bill sponsored by Kraus that would set an earlier deadline to finalize ballot measures, an attempt to cut down on reprinting costs counties faced last year after a late court ruling to change the wording on the early voting amendment Kraus handled.

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Follow Summer Ballentine at https://www.twitter.com/esballentine.


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