JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The race to fill the seat of the Missouri Federation of College Republicans state chair is on, as the current chair Jake Buxton prepares to step down. Two Republican students from the University of Missouri, both with ties to the State Capitol, are now looking to take that role and make some changes.
Samuel F. Wright has been very involved in state politics over the past few years, and it all began with an internship.
“I’ve always been interested in politics, and when I was 18, I was fortunate enough to get an internship with Kurt Schaefer,” he said.
That led to a position on Sen. Schaefer’s staff in the Senate and campaigns, including Schaefer’s Attorney General race.
“Looking back now, most of my experience was inside the Capitol,” he said. “I’d been in the building for two-and-a-half years, and developed a lot of relationships that I hadn’t expected. It gave me a great inside look and a strong understanding as to how everything in Jefferson City works. That’s a perspective that’s kind of overlooked by a lot of College Republicans because they’re always focused on the campaigns.”
He currently works as a political operative for the Lincoln Strategy Group. Following his time at the Capitol, Wright decided to return to school, where he is currently looking into furthering his education in business. He joined the College Republicans in an attempt to stay involved in politics.
Joining the group eventually led to his decision to run, but Wright says he believes it’s important to break with the normal tradition inside the organization in which a “slate” of candidates being picked and elected.
“It’s always been this way,” he said. “Last year, there was a ruckus because you couldn’t nominate from the floor, you had to file ahead of time. We can’t find evidence of a contested election. And we thought maybe it’s time, especially looking at the way this election cycle played out, to try something different. Let’s take this opportunity to take an outside shot at it.”
Wright says he wants to see open races and welcomes the idea of an opponent. He says that a contested race is what American politics are all about.
Dallas Ernst, the candidate at the top of the slate, called ‘Team Missouri,’ is also a student at the University of Missouri’s flagship campus in Columbia, and also has experience in Missouri politics.
A dual major in journalism and political science, Ernst hopes to go on to law school after graduation.
Ernst says his reason for getting into politics was his desire to change how government affects business owners, having worked in his father’s store in Waynesville for years.
“In the summer, on weekends, and after school, I’d go in and help my dad,” he said. “And I really saw how big government was hurting small business owners with their burdensome regulations.”
Ernst’s start in politics began in 2010, where he helped on Congresswomen Vicky Hartzler’s first race to represent the 4th District.
Since then, he has volunteered on statewide campaigns and has also served as campaign manager on several county level campaigns. His most recent work on the successful gubernatorial campaign of Gov. Eric Greitens is a major notch in his belt as well.
Ernst currently holds the position of Chief Field Director for the Missouri Federation of College Republicans, and with his experience in the College Republicans’ leadership, he’s bound to be a favorite. He says that his goal is to serve and be a leader that inspires teamwork.
“We have some of the best and brightest in the state in College Republicans,” he said. “My main goal is to build up the team, build up the unity, plant chapters in places where we don’t have chapters, and spread the conservative message on campus.”
He says the contest between himself and Wright is a positive because it has created excitement throughout the federation. Ernst says that the slate process is all about creating unity, which is his main goal.
“I think it’s great that people are wanting to be part of the process,” he said.
In the end, it all comes down to the election, which is less than two weeks away, taking place on Saturday, Feb. 25 at Lincoln Days.