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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Former U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway says she is running for Missouri governor in 2016.

Hanaway's announcement Monday makes her the first Republican to enter the race. Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster has been building a gubernatorial campaign since last year.

The office will be open because Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.

Hanaway is a former state lawmaker from St. Louis County who in 2003 became the first women to serve as Missouri House speaker after helping Republicans win a majority in the chamber.

She lost a bid for secretary of state in 2004 but was appointed the next year by President George W. Bush to serve as U.S. attorney for the eastern Missouri. She held that position until April 2009.

Here is the statement Hanaway released Monday:

"After serious consideration, discussion and prayer with my family, I am excited to announce that I will be a candidate for Governor in 2016.

"Missourians will face a stark choice in 2016. The polices of Barack Obama and Chris Koster have resulted in less economic activity, less control over our healthcare and, for some of our communities, a broken educational system.

"I want to lead Missouri in a different direction. I believe we can do better as a state. We can attract better jobs, we can improve the education for our children and we should have a government that respects our freedom as individuals.

"We can no longer sit idly by as the de-facto Democrat nominee continues to raise money and build his organization. I am starting now so that we can build the largest and best grassroots campaign in Missouri history.

"I am proud of the work we did when I was the Speaker of the House. We overrode the Governor on laws protecting life and our second amendment. We started Missouri on a new course.

"Since I last sought elective office, I've spent the last 10 years like most Missourians, raising a family and working to make a living. Time spent working in the private sector, going to kids' ball games and talking to people raising their families, has only increased my worry that Missouri kids will not have the same opportunities as their parents.

"Missouri has an opportunity to once again meet our challenges and create a better day for all Missourians. To do that we need a Governor who is not afraid to lead."

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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