JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Not knowing for sure what his Missouri Senate district will look like hasn't stopped Democrat Redditt Hudson from starting his campaign.
Hudson said he doesn't anticipate drastic changes before Missouri's muddled redistricting process is settled, so filed this past week to run in the state Senate's 13th District in northern St. Louis County.
"I didn't want to miss the first day of filing based on speculation," Hudson said. "I just want to get the process under way, and I just saw no reason to wait."
Hudson had company as hundreds of candidates filed to run for Congress and the Missouri Legislature across the state.
More than 300 Republicans and Democrats filed on the first day for the 188 congressional, state House and state Senate seats appearing on this year's ballot. Candidates can file until March 27. In 2008, about 280 Republicans and Democrats filed on the first day.
Candidates filed even though Missouri's chaotic redistricting process remain incomplete. The public comment period about tentative state Senate districts ends this upcoming week, and the Missouri Supreme Court could reach decisions in lawsuits challenging the congressional and state House maps. There has been just one week since the beginning of the year without at least one new redistricting lawsuit, court hearing or redistricting commission meeting.
Why the rush to jump into a race given such uncertainty?
Candidates who file on the first day draw lots to determine the order they will appear on their primary ballot. Whoever gets the lowest number is listed first, which is believed to offer at least a small boost on Election Day. Candidates who wait until after opening day are listed in the order they file. In addition, filing on the first day can prevent speculation about whether a candidate will run.
Democrat Paul LeVota, the former House minority leader, said filing on the first day demonstrates how seriously a candidate takes a race. He was the only candidate to file for the 11th Senate District near Kansas City.
"I always have filed on the opening day," LeVota said. "I want the people in the district to know that I am running to stand up for the community and be a strong state senator. And I think filing on the first day shows that."
First-time candidate Stan Watson, of West Plains, who already is campaigning for a southern Missouri House seat, said he was hoping to land the top spot for a three-way Republican primary. Instead, he got the third slot.
Given the uncertain districts, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan had suggested Senate candidates wait until the maps are finalized and warned candidates who file before then that they could be forced to refile and pay a second filing fee if the maps change.
Carnahan said several candidates who opted to file anyway told her they "have clarity about what their districts are going to look like, or want — even if it might change — the chance that they could maybe be first on the ballot. People have all kinds of motivations for what they do."
Others spotted a new opportunity to serve in the Legislature.
Warren Love lost in a Republican primary for the state House two years ago but currently finds himself in a brand new district without an incumbent. Describing the opportunity as "divine providence," the cattle rancher, carpenter and restaurant operator living near Iconium is not wasting time. Love announced his candidacy in December and already has printed business cards that identify him as a candidate for the 125th District.
Now, he and other candidates must wait and hope the districts in which they already have filed remain intact.
"I hope everything I did wasn't in vain," Love said.
Associated Press writer David A. Lieb contributed to this report.
Missouri candidates: http://1.usa.gov/yyDNDj