JEFFERSON CITY — Now that the 2015 legislative session has started the 2016 announcements are already flying and speculation is ramping up. The Missouri Times decided to update our statewide tip sheet.
Senator Roy Blunt. Senator Blunt’s team doesn’t make mistakes that make him vulnerable to a serious challenge from either side. He has a southwest Missouri base, conservative voting record, and remains consistently popular even with younger Republicans, which makes a primary challenge unlikely, and his campaign team, run by Andy Blunt, is the gold standard in the state.
Now we will see that organization engaged and firing on all cylinders as he will face a top tier competitor in Secretary of State Jason Kander. The real winners could be the rest of the statewide ticket who will be beneficiaries of the Blunt campaign’s organization.
Secretary of State Jason Kander.
Kander is in. He said he was going to take some time to consider running, but it didn’t take long for him to decide that he was running for US Senate. He came out of the gate swinging with a well produced video highlighting two of the themes he hopes carries him to victory: 1. His war record, and 2. His opponents service in Congress. This will be a fun race to watch.
Attorney General Chris Koster. The Democrats have settled on their candidate, and likely dodged a bullet when Senator McCaskill decided not to run and cleared the field for Koster. He starts the general election as the favorite, and with $2.6 million cash on hand already the “all prosecutor, no politics” candidate will be tough to beat.
Lurking in the background is the man who has ended more careers of Missouri Democrats than anyone else, President Barack Obama. However, it will take a good campaign to tie him to Obama, likely combined with a good Republican year, to beat him. It will be interesting to see how the Kander announcement affects the governor’s race. It will now likely get top billing and may make it harder for Koster to separate himself from the national democratic party.
State Auditor Tom Schweich. Schweich fits the profile of successful republican statewide gubernatorial candidate. He is conservative but not in a way that is off putting, no lengthy voting record to parse, a million dollars cash on hand, and most importantly he won statewide elected office.
This will be one of the most interesting primary campaigns in recent memory. He has some areas to attack Hanaway on, and is currently the beneficiary of the almost ravenous mainstream media obsession and hatred for Rex Sinquefield. He is the current front-runner if he can run a disciplined campaign and stay on message.
Former House Speaker Catherine Hanaway.
The media seems obsessed by the source of her fundraising, but in the end very few elections have ever turned on fundraising issues. Although, the support has given her a slight cash on hand advantage, although from far fewer donors than Schweich. She is imminently qualified and there are some in the party who feel she is a better match up against Koster. Although her campaign had some recent mistakes that currently counter that argument. But she may be able to use the mainstream media scrutiny that her large donor brings to her advantage. If the Post-Dispatch endorses someone in the primary count on it to be touted loudly…by their opponent. Lastly, it seems likely that if there is another entrant to the primary it will be a man creating a potential advantage for her.
Lt. Governor Peter Kinder.
It would appear that the more candidates that file the better the chance that Kinder could win. With his name ID and an already well-funded primary challenger he can sit and see what unfolds. Since the early 1990’s, every four years the state holds elections, and every four years Peter Kinder wins them.
Businessman John Brunner. The track record he established in the 2012 U.S. Senate primary of self-funding would make him an immediate contender. He doesn’t have a voting record and does have support within the Tea Party community.
Eric Greitens. He is a former Navy Seal who is kicking the tires on running. He has an impressive resume, but no experience in running for office. Could be a compelling candidate.
Former State Representative Randy Asbury. He will have to do something to show he is a serious candidate to garner much attention.
Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer. He has said he is much more likely to run for re-election to Congress. Serving in Congress he would have been in a better position to run against McCaskill.
Lt. Governor Peter Kinder. The dean of the Republican Party in Missouri, he has fought through four statewide wins in good and bad Republican years, and even a tough, well-funded primary opponent in Sen. Brad Lager in 2012.
He only has a little over $50,000 on hand, but if he chooses to run for re-election — and we understand that he is at the moment — he will be very tough to beat.
Beverly Randles. The chairwoman of the Missouri Club for Growth and an attorney in the Kansas City area, she has some political experience from running her husband’s unsuccessful Republican primary campaign for governor in 2012.
Her campaign will have the fundraising advantage in the race, as she was the recipient of the largest campaign contribution in state history, $1,000,000 from Rex Sinquefield. Many would love to see a woman on the statewide ticket, and she would fit the bill. However, her lack of a track record of elected office means that she will likely face a primary whether Kinder runs or not.
Senator Mike Kehoe.
He has been sitting on the statewide sidelines waiting to make his intentions known. However, he would have the experience to run for lt. governor both thanks to his time in the state senate and via his chairmanship of the state’s Transportation Commission in the executive branch. His decision may hinge on other factors, but will be a contender in any race he chooses to run.
Senator Mike Parson.
Likely not to challenge Kinder, but might just entertain an open seat race. He doesn’t have senate leadership to tie him down, has half a million dollars cash on hand, can fundraise with anyone in Missouri, has the statewide contacts of leading the Right to Farm campaign, and has a great resume being a former Sheriff.
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.
Businessman Barry Aycock. There have been rumors for months that he is interested in running for Lt. Governor and his rural business agriculture background and ability to self-fund make him an ideal candidate in many Democrat’s minds.
He is also a favorite of many Democrats in the legislature, and will be able to pull a good deal of labor support should he decide to run.
Dr. Brad Bradshaw. An attorney and physician from the Springfield area is another potential candidate who can self-fund a campaign for statewide office. The last two Democratic campaigns for Lt. Governor have both felt they were just a few dollars short from winning. That may not be the case this year.
Former Congressman Russ Carnahan. It would seem like a long way down from the House Foreign Relations Committee to being the state’s advocate for tourism, 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 fully healed, also does he really want to run for a job that isn’t much of a job?
Senator Scott Sifton.
He is a top tier get for statewide Democrats. In fact some of his would-be opponents best argument against him is that the party cannot afford to lose his voice in the senate.
He is from St. Louis County, has the support of the Mayor of St. Louis, and has won both a competitive primary and general election. The wildcard here may be that he likely has the inside track to get the support of the St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough who showed in 2014 he has the ability to be the king of the mountain in St. Louis County primary races if he chooses to.
St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman. Jake Zimmerman is a top tier fundraiser and there are few traits more important in a statewide race. He has a base of support in St. Louis County, and as a former house member, is known to the lobbying community. He will be solid contender and will be in the middle of his term so it is a free shot from him.
Former Lt. Governor Joe Maxwell. His supporters have stopped floating his name for governor, but are now mentioning him as a potential Attorney General candidate. He is a former state senator who has won a statewide office, and got to refresh his statewide contacts while involved in the opposition to the Right to Farm ballot initiative in 2014. If he runs he will be formidable.
Senator Kurt Schaefer.
Since announcing early he has been a juggernaut who has seen the Democratic field become crowded while he is yet to be challenged in the Republican primary.
He is a successful fundraiser who has won two hard fought high profile expensive general elections in Boone County, traditionally a tough place for republicans. Schaefer would seem tailor made for the general election ballot, and his experience working in the Attorney General’s office gives him an advantage over the rest of the field.
Josh Hawley. He is an attorney and professor at the University of Missouri whose claim to fame was being involved with Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. He has been actively traveling the state weighing a run. Hawley would immediately rally some tea party support, and he’s quickly making friends in the legislature. Hawley has never run for office before but if he passes on a run for Attorney General, he could be a top candidate for the Boone County senate seat if Reps. Jones and Rowden take a pass.
None actively campaigning.
State Senator Eric Schmitt. Since making his decision to run for treasurer, he has been off and running amassing nearly $2 million cash on hand making the rounds in the state. He is also generating press in every media outlet in the state with his bill to end speed traps.
Schmitt has aligned the party behind his bid, putting together a state-of-the-art campaign team, receiving 80 endorsements of legislators, and both living former GOP treasurers supporting him. His extremely high name ID in St. Louis County and fundraising prowess make it no coincidence that there are no Democrats actively running.
Secretary of State
Secretary of State Jason Kander. It’s rare that statewide incumbents lose, and Kander ran a great campaign in 2012. He has over $600,000 on hand, and is known as a great fundraiser and a prolific public speaker. His military service makes a lot of the typical attacks on Democrats ineffective on him and he has a young, vibrant family fit for campaign literature.
But he does have a liberal record on items pertaining to the Secretary of State’s office. Still, if he passes on the U.S. Senate race it will take a good Republican year to beat him. If he runs for U.S. Senate the race to succeed him could be a way for Democrats to avoid primaries in other races.
State Senator Will Kraus. He has the record of military service to match Kander, and his legislative record gives him policy chops. He also has a tremendous look for a candidate. The question for the senator last year was about fundraising and he has done an great job amassing over $400,000 on hand at his last report. It seems that with the office being open there are just too many top tier Republican candidates for too few statewide offices to avoid primaries.
Jay Ashcroft. His name will be extremely difficult for an opponent to overcome in a primary. He has ran once, losing a close race to Senator Jill Shupp in a tough district in St. Louis County, and will now run statewide. He will be vulnerable to some charges of nepotism, but he is very personally relatable and can likely put together the fundraising to put his message out. He also has Victory Enterprises working with him and they have demonstrated the ability to move primary voters.
State Senator Mike Kehoe. His business background, fundraising ability and wealth of connections make him an instant contender. It’s likely that any attacks a primary opponent lodges he will have more than enough money to counter. Some wonder if an open secretary of state office will be more than he can pass up.
Former Rep. Shane Schoeller. His name hasn’t been mentioned much since winning the Greene County Clerk’s race in November, but he came so close in 2012 we’ll keep him on the list until he says he is out.
Rep. Caleb Jones. He would make a stellar candidate for any statewide office. He has ran a statewide race, and his cousin, the former speaker, bowing out for 2016 makes him an even more enticing candidate. He is the top recruit for the Boone County senate race, but if he takes a pass on that race all of the above will sleep a little uneasy until filing closes.
Former Senator Victor Callahan.
He is on the tax commission, which is somewhat low profile, but keep in mind the three quarters of a million dollars he has, and the fact that he is the smartest politician on the entire list. Until he definitively states that he isn’t running, we will keep him on.
House Majority Leader Todd Richardson. Could the future of the Missouri Republican Party be now? Probably not with Richardson the heir to the Speaker of the House post in 2017, but it has to be at least tempting for the man Jeff Roe called “the best raw talent in Missouri politics” to run statewide now.
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger. The first few weeks on the job have been a little rocky, but he has a great deal of political steam he could parlay into a statewide race if he chose to. He also has the support of St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCullough.
Rep. Paul Curtman. 2016 may not be the year, but he is an up and coming politician who is developing the type of political network necessary to run statewide, and is looking more and more like a serious candidate for office all the time.
Senator Tom Dempsey. He will leave state government in 2016 as a four-year Pro Tem of the senate and likely 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 has become an outstanding senator, and some see him as the type of candidate ideal for a statewide run, but with the way he seems to enjoy the senate, 2016 doesn’t look likely with his own re-election pending. The 2018 State Auditor’s race could be another story.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. The Mayor isn’t looking to trade City Hall for the Governor’s Mansion, but he is the most popular elected official in the state’s largest media market and one of the most likable Democrats in the state. Further, every Republican he works with respects him unconditionally. Even with all that in mind, he seems less likely to try and buck the historical trend of St. Louis Mayors losing governor’s races than he is to make history as the longest serving mayor in the history of St. Louis.
Rep. Lincoln Hough.
He seems to have his pick of a couple state senate seats in 2018, but for the 2016 cycle, he has built one of the state’s most impressive fundraising networks, has the look of a statewide candidate, and loyal group of friends well positioned around the state.
Senator Ryan Silvey. It may be early Silvey has his own re-election to weigh in 2016. But he can raise money, has a great look, and if Republicans are looking for a problem solver he is at the top of the list. Silvey would frighten almost any Democrat in a statewide run, provided he can survive a primary.
St. Louis City Treasurer Tishaura Jones. She is a great candidate for…something. Few see her as a five-term St. Louis City treasurer. Some see her as the next mayor, others, the next congresswoman from the first district. If she chose a statewide run she would be an instant contender.
Director of the Missouri Department of Labor Ryan McKenna.
For McKenna, the question is whether he’ll run, not whether he’d be a great candidate. He has demonstrated he can raise money from the St. Louis business community, would have the backing of labor, and is from Jefferson County the state’s most pivotal county in statewide politics. One observer explained it to us that he is “first in ability, last in interest”.
Senator Doug Libla. He seems to be enjoying the senate and is up for re-election in 2016, but he has quite a resume to appeal to Missouri Republicans. While other Republicans talk about creating jobs, he has employed hundreds of people in at his manufacturing business. While other Republicans talk about standing up to China, Libla’s company sued China for violating trade laws. And won.
Senator Jason Holsman. Look for him to make a run for statewide office, but it’s looking like 2020 is more likely than 2016. You can sense Holsman’s eagerness to run, but there are simply too many moving pieces and perhaps not enough campaign cash to go around. But by 2020, he will have another four years to fundraise and build a profile that as of now would be tough to beat in a Democratic primary.
Senator Majority Leader Ron Richard. He has previously spoken about seeking statewide office in the past. However, coming back and running to become one of the only people in state history to serve as House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem has to be enticing.
Democrats who are out for 2016: Senator Claire McCaskill, State Treasurer Clint Zweifel, Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters-Baker
Republicans who are out for 2016: House Speaker John Diehl, Former House Speaker Tim Jones