JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Republican state Sen. Jane Cunningham, who sponsored a Missouri ballot initiative defying a key part of President Barack Obama's health care law, said Wednesday that she is likely to run for a suburban St. Louis congressional seat if the GOP incumbent enters the U.S. Senate race.
Cunningham's interest in Missouri's newly redrawn 2nd Congressional District comes as Rep. Todd Akin nears an announcement on a 2012 challenge to Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. Cunningham said she will wait to make an official announcement on a congressional campaign until after Akin declares his candidacy.
But Cunningham, a first-term state senator from Chesterfield, said she is "perfectly positioned" to run for the 2nd District, which was recently redrawn based on 2010 census data to include much of St. Louis County and parts of St. Charles and Jefferson counties.
"It's very important for me to make sure we continue to have a conservative Republican congressman to follow Todd Akin," Cunningham said. "My record shows I would walk the walk."
Cunningham last year led the effort in support of a Missouri ballot measure rejecting a key component of Obama's new health care law by declaring that government cannot force people to have health insurance nor penalize them for failing to do so. The measure passed with 71 percent of the statewide vote last August.
The legal effect of Missouri's law is questionable because federal laws generally supersede those in states. But the constitutionality of the federal health insurance mandate also is being challenged in various lawsuits and is expected to eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
"One of the motivations for me to be looking at Washington, D.C., is I want to finish the job -- or at least someone needs to clearly finish the job -- and repeal Obamacare," Cunningham said.
If she runs, Cunningham could be the third Republican in a primary for the 2nd District. St. Louis attorney Ed Martin dropped out of the U.S. Senate race earlier this week and instead declared he will run for Akin's seat. Former Missouri Republican Party Chairwoman Ann Wagner also has set up an exploratory committee for Congress in the event Akin opts to run for the Senate.
Akin said earlier this week that he is very seriously considering the Senate race and will make an announcement soon. The only Republican in the Senate race so far is former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, though St. Louis businessman John Brunner also has said he is considering the race.
Before winning election to the state Senate in 2008, Cunningham served for eight years in the Missouri House.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)