Poplar Bluff, MO – For the past several weeks, many wrote off the Democrat’s chances to win the 8th district in a special election — now likely slated for August. That was before insiders began their aggressive recruitment of bootheel agri-businessman Barry Aycock. Aycock’s ability to self-finance, and large net of democratic connections, could provide some optimism in this race. Also we need to remember there are 60,000 new voters from Jefferson County in the district, and they have been willing to vote for a pro-gun pro-life democrats.
If Aycock or another top tier candidate enters a three-way race, it will be interesting to see the republican nominee — each of whom until now was somewhat hesitant to cast themselves as the heir to Congresswoman Emerson’s legacy — rush to her for appearances and fundraising in a district where she is still wildly popular with the electorate. Keep in mind, if she hadn’t resigned she would be in great demand for Lincoln Days, fundraisers, and direct mail pieces, just as she was in 2012 in the competitive state senate races in the bootheel and leadbelt.
It should be stated that the 8th is a solid republican district with a 63% voting average for republicans. While it is unlikely a democrat can win in a two-way race, the prospect of independent candidates splitting the republican vote provides possibilities not normally in play. Many special elections result in hard feelings, with at least one of the canddiates who didn’t get the nomination running as an independent. If that happens, it is possible a conservative democrat could win a majority of the votes in a special election. Here is a list of candidates who could run credible campaigns to attempt to take advantage of this unique electoral situation.
Agri-business man, Member of the State Judicial Disciplinary & Retirement Committee
Aycock owns many agriculture related business employing many people throughout the bootheel who could, if he chose, self fund a campaign. He is also major player in state democratic politics. In 2008 he was the largest individual fundraiser for Governor Nixon’s campaign from an area where Nixon’s opponent was from. Aycock also serves on the Judicial Disciplinary & Retirement Committee. To put it another way; Monday, when Governor Nixon puts his hand on the bible, Aycock will be standing on the platform. If he ran, look for Nixon, Koster, Zweifel, and Kander to quickly come out in support. We hear Aycock is more likely to run if Kinder is the republican nominee.
Former State Representative, Optometrist, and 2012 State Senate candidate
Dr. Swinger raised almost $500,000 for his 25th district state senate from numerous donors across southern Missouri. Had the a good NRA rating and received the pro-life and Farm Bureau endorsement as a democrat. If the republicans end up with an independent running, Swinger could be a real factor as a conservastive democrat in this district. Also, we need to remember the 60,000 new voters from Jefferson County in the district that are willing to vote for a pro-gun pro-life democrat.
Another conservative democrat from the nothern part of the district. Her fundraising has never been huge, but if the national party got behind her, she has a good resume. She is also likely to have an opportunity to get assistance from the governor, as she is married to Jon Hagler.
4. Tommy Sowers
Combat Veteran and 2010 8th district nominee
Sowers raised 1.6 million dollars in his loss to Emerson in 2010, but he ran a great campaign in a very bad year for democrats. If he still wants to be in Congress this would be a much easier race to win and we bet his donors may pony up again since its an open seat this time. However, Sowers is serving in a U.S. Senate-confirmed position in the federal government and has ruled himself out of any consideration for the seat.
5. Jack Rushin
Chiropractor and 2012 8th district nominee
Ran a good race with no money in 2012. Is a doctor and conservative democrat from the central part of the district.
Former State Representative, and former state Economic Development Director
Very well connected and one of the most talented politicians to come out of the 8th. Many from the hill counties of the 25th lament what might have been without the skullduggery pulled by the flatland counties in a nomination process, similar to this one, to fill now Judge Sharp’s vacancy in the 25th years ago. Had things gone differently, state democratic politics likely would have been radically changed. Driskill is now Executive Director of the Fort Leonardwood Institute and likely uninterested in a race for Congress, but is still beloved back home in the 8th.
7. Jerry Howard
Former State Senator and State Representative
The Last democrat senator to hold the bootheel. He was selected over Driskill by area democrats to replace Sharp. One of the best storytellers in southeast Missouri and would certainly mount a credible campaign. The question isn’t whether he still has the fire in his belly, it is whether or not he has the time with his commitments on his farm in Stoddard County. He could be a sleeper pick with potential.
8. Gene Oakley
Former State Representative, Carter County Presiding Commissioner, and school superintendent
If the nomination was decided by a personality contest Gene Oakley would be in Congress in a rout. He is the biggest personality in the area and spearheaded a lawsuit by rural schools that made huge strides in making school funding more equitable. No republican in the field would want to debate Oakley and if he set his mind to it he would be a credible nominee.
9. Steve Hodges
Solid state rep from the bootheel with good connections in Cape County.
Justin Kelley is an attorney who has a law practice in Dexter and lives on a farm outside of Bloomfield. His uncle is Wayne Cryts, who nearly defeated Bill Emerson in the 1980’s. If the Cryts/Kelley family could pull together the same coalition they pulled together in the 1980’s, he would move up considerably in our rankings. He is Pro-life, Pro-gun, and Kelley’s future may be better suited to being an independent with his mix of views from both ends of the political spectrum.