As a quiet 2014 election cycle winds down, we asked our subscribers how they saw 2016 shaping up for each party and compiled a list of their collective wisdom.
Senator Roy Blunt is as safe as any Missouri Senator can be. He is back home during off years more than most senators in election years. He has taken votes that are friendly to most in the state and has a prolific ground game run by Andy Blunt that makes him a strong favorite against any opponent the Democrats could field.
Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders. He has been rumored to be running for statewide office for several cycles but hasn’t pulled the trigger. The U.S. Senate race might be the ideal race for him. He will be in mid-term, can’t easily be tagged with “Washington,” and it would be a race where he has everything to gain and little to lose. If the Tea Party strikes in the Republican primary, he could be in the right place at the right time. He will run a good, well-funded campaign and have some of the top figures in the party completely behind him.
State Treasurer Clint Zweifel. He has a lot of options open to him after choosing not to run for Governor, and is one of the best-liked people in Missouri politics. He would move the race up on several national observers’ radars and many would push harder for him than anyone else because of his work avoiding a gubernatorial primary. The people at the DSCC are very, very good at recruiting and it’s safe to assume he gets a full court press from them.
State Auditor Tom Schweich. Schweich is making the very most of his unopposed auditor re-election and will be mid-term. He is an aggressive campaigner and would be very well suited to take the fight to Koster and attack him for the next two years. He has also proven he can raise a great deal of money. Some are already calling Koster “Governor” and maybe they are right, but Schweich can put together the money and the aggressive message to take advantage of a good Republican year and pull out a win.
Former House Speaker Catherine Hanaway. She is accomplished, has the support of Ann Wagner and the Sinquefield/Brown team and many argue being a woman matches up better against Koster. She will run a tough campaign and still has a contingent of former state rep allies across Missouri that would work as hard as they needed for her. The primary field is still forming and she is certainly a seasoned enough politician to take advantage of an evolving landscape. However, she is going to have to have more than one donor soon to avoid some obvious questions about her campaign.
Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer. He may be ready to come home, and if he does, he has the personal wealth and connections to be very competitive and reshape the race. He has always had very close ties to Missouri Right to Life that could be very valuable. There is always the “Washington” issue to deal with for any member of Congress, but everything about him looks like a “Missouriahan,” making it a little harder to tag him with it than most members of Congress. His decision may be a key to the primary race.
Lt. Governor Peter Kinder. We understand he hasn’t fully ruled it out, and in a three or four candidate field, his name ID could win him the nomination. Never forget, two things happen every four years: the state holds elections and Peter Kinder wins them.
Businessman John Brunner. If he makes a similar commitment to the gubernatorial race that he did the senate race, he will instantly change it. He has a strong relationship with the Tea Party community, and there some in the party wondering what exactly would have happened if they’d backed him out of the gate, would they have avoided Todd Akin? His decision will be important and his distinguishing factor may be that Koster is a charismatic politician who has been in public office for two decades and Brunner is a businessman who has never been in public office.
Attorney General Chris Koster. In a state that seems to be becoming more red every cycle, this is the absolute best possible situation Democrats could be in. An Attorney General with a strong, vote-getting track record, and a former Republican, Koster is raising a great deal of money, has the full support of the King of St. Louis County Politics Bob McCulloch, and after avoiding a primary, is the front runner. Republicans need a good year on par with 2012 to beat him, which isn’t out of the question, but those are a lot of things that need to go right.
Former Lt. Governor Joe Maxwell. Many are speculating that he was in the heat of a tough Right to Farm campaign when he made his threats about running and didn’t mean them. Most doubt he actually does run, but his entrance into a race would force Koster to focus on issues he would rather not have to talk about.
Lt. Governor Peter Kinder. The dean of the Republican Party in Missouri, he has fought through to statewide wins in good and bad Republican years, and even a tough, well-funded primary opponent in Sen. Brad Lager in 2012. If he chooses to run for re-election, and we understand as of now he is planning to do so, he is the favorite to win the primary and general election.
Senator Mike Kehoe. He has made no secret of his statewide ambitions and has been polling recently, but, for now, hasn’t made a decision. He may be waiting for Kinder to make a move, and he has the fundraising ability to wait it out and still mount an effective campaign. There are some issues in a primary that could cause him problems, but there isn’t a long track record of issues winning and losing primaries.
Speaker Tim Jones. He is the man with the most cards to play of anyone who hasn’t announced his 2016 intentions. Mr. Speaker has the best conservative credentials of anyone in Missouri and a war chest that leads the party. If he gets into any race, he will be favored to win the primary, or he could just sit out 2016 and wait to pick his shot.
Senator Mike Parson. Likely not to challenge Kinder, but could entertain an open seat race. He doesn’t have senate leadership to tie him down, can fundraise with anyone in Missouri, has the statewide contacts of leading the Right to Farm campaign, and has a great resume. He would be a top contender if he chose to wade into those waters. Also, don’t forget about Parson’s close friend billionaire Forest Lucas, and what his support could mean in a statewide race.
State Treasurer Clint Zweifel. Simply put, if he wants this race, the Democrats will do all they can to clear the field for him. He would be a good match up against Kinder, and has a lot of positives. It just seems like Lt. governor would be a less-than-attractive consolation prize for helping the democrats avoid a gubernatorial primary.
Businessman Barry Aycock. Imagine a self-funding businessman and Democrat from rural Missouri on the statewide ticket. Many others in the Democratic Party are doing the same thing. Aycock could be a candidate who helps the party with their hemorrhaging of support in rural Missouri and could turn the tide on their perennial problem in Lt. governor races for the Democrats, a lack of financial resources to close the deal. Aycock is also popular with legislative Democrats, as he has taken an active role in contributing to the caucus.
Former Congressman Russ Carnahan. It would seem like a long way down from the House Foreign Relations Committee to being the advocate for the elderly in Missouri, but we’re hearing that Carnahan may in fact be looking to do just that. His name would be golden in the primary, but some wonder if the scars from his Congressional primary against Congressman Clay have healed. It would certainly be interesting to see his attempt at a comeback via the Lt. governor’s office.
Senator Jason Holsman. Just because he said he is out for now doesn’t at all mean that the field doesn’t come back to Holsman especially if Kinder doesn’t run. He has the positions that make him a great primary contender, has previously won a tough primary, would have support from a handful of key groups, and is a tireless worker. He may just not see it as the right time when he would have to give up his senate seat — he may choose to return to the senate and build a war chest for another race.
Rep. John Wright. Many are mentioning him for state treasurer, but this is a race that, if he won the primary, his fundraising ability could help him outspend his opponent 10-to-1. If he is looking for the race that best shapes up for him, he is likely running for Lt. governor and if he does, he may be a Democrat who can beat Kinder. We have seen all three Democrats come away from losing to Kinder say that “if I had another $100,000 I could have won” …well, Wright won’t leave the race saying that.
Senator Kurt Schaeffer. He announced early and so far is the only Republican running. He has put that head start to good use. That, along with this fundraising war chest he has amassed, may allow him to avoid a primary. He is one candidate that you actually believe when he talks about wanting to do the job of the office he is seeking. Schaeffer really wants to be Missouri’s Attorney General and he has some experience in the office. He is also very intelligent and a very aggressive campaigner. A Schaeffer/Sifton matchup would be the marquee down ticket race in the state.
Speaker Tim Jones. He is the best positioned Republican to win a primary and likely knows it and is waiting to pick his spot. If Lt. Governor opens up then that might tempt him to run for it, but his interests would seem to lead him to prefer an AG run. He has a very healthy war chest and is loved by the most conservative in the party. If he can figure out a way to continue to be bashed by liberal editorial pages when he leaves the speakership, he could be unstoppable.
Josh Hawley. Known best perhaps as the “Hobby Lobby lawyer” he has been traveling the state speaking to republican groups around the state and stirring buzz about a possible candidacy. If he doesn’t run he would be a good candidate to run in Boone County if Caleb Jones or Caleb Rowden do not run for state senate.
Senator Scott Sifton. He is the man of the hour for down-ticket Democrats. He hails from St. Louis County, and most of the leaders there are behind his as of now still hypothetical bid. He will likely also have loyal backing from the influential Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys. Once he announces, several in the field likely clear out, and this will be a marquee down ballot race.
St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman. He is long been rumored to be a statewide contender. If Stream wins the St. Louis County Executive race many feel he would stay put and challenge him. However, if Stenger wins, that path will likely be blocked for several years, and a run for AG might be more inviting. He is a wild card here and his running might encourage others to get in.
Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker. She has been widely discussed with statewide ambitions. There are some who feel the Democrats need a woman on the statewide ticket and she is a very credible candidate to boot. However, many who know her say that she is very, very happy in her current job, and many believe she will not run.
Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders. He has long been rumored as a candidate for this post, and if he forgoes a U.S. Senate bid, this would make sense. He can raise the money and would have a strong base of support in Jackson County.
State Senator Eric Schmitt. When the next big thing in the Republican Party made his decision on which race he would be running in, he made a huge splash and will be sitting on more than $1.5 million two years out. That is likely enough to make any serious primary challengers think about seeking another race, and his tone as a smiling conservative with the strongest St. Louis County base makes him a very difficult opponent in a general election.
Rep. John Wright. It looks like he will win re-election to the House and with his proven ability to raise money; personal wealth, youth and looks will be a very attractive candidate for the Democrats. One thing is for sure; his fundraising ability makes him a big gun other Democrats would like to avoid. His previous experience working in the treasurer’s office and financial background lead many to speculate that he will run for treasurer, but this is the one race where being able to raise 2 or 3 million dollars only gets you to parity, in other races it blows the doors off of your opponent.
Secretary of State
State Senator Will Kraus. He has announced and carried several pieces of legislation that appeal to conservative Republican voters and pertain to the Secretary of State’s Office, including voter ID bills, which he could very well make into the issue that defines the race. He has a great resume as a Veteran and, let’s be honest, looks like he was sent from Central Casting for the role of political candidate. He is close to top consultant Jeff Roe and Senator Lager who has two statewide runs to use to advise him on, and a top-flight chief of staff. The question will be — can he raise enough money to avoid a primary? He had a solid 3rd quarter, but he will have to continue that before he can focus on Kander.
State Senator Mike Kehoe. If he chooses against a run for Lt. governor, many speculate that he will be looking to the SOS race. His business background and wealth of connections make him an instant contender. His fundraising ability will make him a tough candidate. Whatever Senator Kehoe chooses to do will in some way or another reshape the Republican statewide field.
Former Rep. Shane Schoeller. Most all Republicans like Shane. Many Republicans feel he got a raw deal and was a casualty of the Akin fiasco wher the Tea Party declared war on the Republican Party. Schoeller is from southwest Missouri and hasn’t stopped courting friends and donors since his loss. He looks to be cruising to a win as Greene County Clerk, and may just not be able to pass on an attempt at a rematch.
Secretary of State Jason Kander. He’s the youngest incumbent statewide elected official in the country, a great fundraiser with a war record to boot. He is a tough incumbent. His win in 2012 was narrow, but he is now an incumbent who is scandal-free that should cancel that out. He’s managed to not be overshadowed at more than one event with bigger names on the card thanks to his public speaking chops. His wife is also an asset that is becoming a darling of the Democratic Party. No Republican will out work him, and it will most certainly take a good Republican year to beat him.
Rep. Caleb Jones. The top choice of anyone not currently tagged to race on the Republican side. He can raise money, will likely have accomplished everything he cares about in the House by 2016, and has a list of contacts that no one in the state can match. His cousin the Speaker being on the ballot would certainly complicate things, and he may not be able to resist running for senate in Boone County, but he would be a force on the campaign trail and a top contender for any office he set his sights on.
Former Senator Victor Callahan. Two things: 1. Over three-quarters of a million dollars in campaign funds, and 2. He is the smartest politician on this list. As a conservative Democrat with the ability to raise money, he is an ideal general election candidate, and has a collection of loyal allies around the state to call on.
Senator Ron Richard. He has previously spoken about seeking statewide office in the past. As Floor Leader, he has the ability to put together the money and as a former Speaker, has a full state of contacts and is from GOP primary vote-rich southwest Missouri.
St. Louis County Councilman Steve Stenger. Now of course this is dependent on him winning the tight County Executive race, but if he does he will have spent over 4 million dollars on TV in the key media market in the state, and be a young, proven vote-getter, with a new wife and baby to boot. If the Democrats need a candidate, there is no doubt someone will come calling, and after a year as St. Louis County Executive and all the headaches that it is sure to bring with it, who could blame him for walking a block from his office in Clayton to Café Napoli and listening to what they have to say?
Rep. Paul Curtman. If you want to scare a Republican looking at a statewide primary list, Paul Curtman’s issue set and military resume, combined with his ability to organize Tea Party constituencies and you will see what we are talking about, and make no mistake — he is planning a run sometime.
Former State Auditor Susan Montee. She has her own personal wealth she could invest, and has great name ID in the Democratic Party from serving as State Auditor. She could win a primary and in a different national climate, her general election prospects could look different.
Senator Tom Dempsey. He will leave state government in 2016 as a four-year Pro Tem of the senate and possibly as the most respected legislator of the term limits era. There is a great deal of speculation about GOP heavyweights wanting him to consider a congressional run if Congressman Luetkemeyer seeks another office, and there is always the temptation to look to replace Steve Ehlmann as St. Charles County Executive, but if he chose to run statewide, he would be a top shelf candidate.
Senator Gary Romine. He seems like he was born a statesman. There isn’t one part of this game that he isn’t good at. It probably just isn’t the right time, but as he continues in his senate career he will be one that is certainly mentioned for higher office.
Rep. Todd Richardson. It would be hard to leave a near-certain speakership, and is more likely a State Auditor candidate in 2018, but his raw skill could lead some party leaders to ask him to consider the future being now. He is a top candidate for any office he would choose to seek. Everyone in the Republican Party has now caught on to the fact that you want to be in on the ground floor of what will be a career that has no limits.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. The Mayor isn’t going anywhere, but he would be a dream candidate for Democrats. He’s certainly the most popular Democrat from the largest media market in the state. He can raise money and articulate a message better than almost anyone in Missouri politics. And, affable nature aside, Slay is an absurdly tough campaigner. Can you imagine Richard Callow fully engaged in a statewide run? But when you look at that beautiful St. Louis City Hall – why would you ever want to leave?
Rep. Lincoln Hough. He likely has no interest, and may find a future congressional race a better prospect but he is young, has a great rural resume, and – let’s be honest – can raise money…lots of money. Being from Southwest Missouri and being able to raise money, he would be a strong candidate and, while the list of loyal allies may not be as long as some others, the ones on that list are very, very loyal.
Former Rep. Judy Baker. She is still an ambitious, well-liked Democrat who is a good campaigner. She may want to run a race on her own terms and in 2016, there may be a full slate of candidates already, but if you have a primary with two men in it she could win that primary and would look good on a general election ticket.
Senator Ryan Silvey. It may be early yet as he will be up for re-election in 2016. He can raise money, has a great look, and seems to understand modern campaigning. May be a question of now or 2020.
St. Louis City Treasurer Tishaura Jones. She is just a great candidate, a single, working mother who has succeeded in Jefferson City and St. Louis City Hall. She can give a great speech and has proven she can win tough primaries. There will be a great deal of pressure inside the Democratic Party to have a woman and a minority on the statewide ticket and Tisharua isn’t a token anything – she is both – who is also a great candidate who could win.
Jay Ashcroft. This one really isn’t tied to him winning in November or not. The fact is he is a very nice person and we could list some other positives but at the end of the day does any Republican want to run in a primary against an Ashcroft?
Director of the Department of Labor Ryan McKenna. He has looked at statewide office before. He can raise money, and no one is closer to organized labor. Probably a question of whether he wants to leave his new job and the answer is likely no, but if that answer changed to yes, no Democrat could count on labor supporting anyone but him, and would likely be in trouble. Being from the pivotal Jefferson County would also be an asset to statewide democrats.
Senator John Lamping. The question here is — does he want it? Sometimes he seems like he is set to run and grab the party and lead it, and sometimes he seems like he wants to lead the party from behind the scenes. He is influential, well connected in the St. Louis area, and would be a formidable candidate if he chose to do so. Also, for another two months, the best hair in Missouri politics.
Eric Greitens. A veteran and a founder of a not for profit that benefits wounded veterans, and has made known his interest in running for office.
Scott Faughn is the publisher of The Missouri Times, owner of the Clayton Times in Clayton; SEMO Times in Poplar Bluff; and host of the only statewide political television show, This Week in Missouri Politics.