KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The most competitive House race in the state might be District 14, straddling Clay and Platte Counties, where demographics and two good candidates have combined to produce a compelling race.
Rep. Kevin Corlew is the one-term Republican incumbent. He beat a primary challenger who tried to focus on Corlew’s opposition to right-to-work. While Corlew won, he had to expend some significant resources.
By the time 30 day after primary reports came out, Corlew and his opponent were basically tied in cash-on-hand at around $29,000.
The Democratic challenger is Martin Rucker II, a former professional football player who played for the Chiefs and collegiately at the University of Missouri. His father represented St. Joseph in the legislature in the 2000s.
He didn’t have a primary opponent and has been knocking doors since the end of May with a focus on the general.
“It may have given us an edge to hit some doors that maybe we wouldn’t have been able if we had a primary election,” Rucker said. “The response at the doors has been incredible. It’s been very supportive. That’s been the most encouraging and inspiring thing, the way that I’ve been received by the district and how many people are excited for change.”
Rucker’s optimism based on hitting the doors has been shared by Corlew, who also feels the reception has been good.
“It’s going real well. We’re working extremely hard and making our way through the district going door-to-door, visiting, going to community events, raising money that we need to, making phone calls,” he said. “Just have a solid grassroots effort that we’re going to keep active in all the way up to November 8.”
Both candidates say they’re working “extremely hard” and won’t be outworked in the final five-and-a-half weeks. They also hear about the same issues from the voters: education, jobs, and public safety.
In that, Rucker tries to draw a correlation, using Corlew’s vote to override the veto on the omnibus gun bill as a differentiation.
“He was in favor of overriding the gun control veto and that doesn’t make our community safer,” Rucker said. “Pretty much every door that I’ve gone to, safety is one of the top issues. Crime in our area and town has increased over the last year, couple of years and these radical gun bills don’t do anything but destabilize the security that we’ve got in place right now.”
Outside the district, party leaders know this could be an important race as well. On last week’s #moleg podcast, Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said Corlew had the caucus’ full support.
Corlew said because the district is so competitive, there likely won’t be straight-ticket voting.
“I think, given that our district is a competitive district, it’s made up of Republicans, Democrats and independents, that I don’t think they’ll be as prone to do a straight ballot ticket as in other areas,” he said. I think they will be more likely in our district to vote for the candidate that best represents our area as opposed to a particular party that they are voting for. “
He thinks that he’s the better opponent given his decade spent in the community and working with people.
“Me having lived here and having been engaged in the community over the last decade, that will help over someone who has very recently moved to our area and has yet to get to know the community,” Corlew said.
On the other hand, Rucker sees himself as a change agent, ready to throw out a political class that’s ignored the voice of the people.
“We’ve got politicians in Jefferson City now that are voting because lobbyists are funding their campaigns and once you’ve got enough money and your signs are everywhere and your campaign is fully funded, they own you,” he said. “What you end up doing is you listen to the people who are funding your campaign instead of the people who elected you to represent them. I think you’re seeing this trend on the national level as well. People are tired of politicians. They want someone who will listen to them and shares the same views and has the same anxieties as them.”
Both candidates know they have to work hard to win the seat in November and both say they are willing and able to do it.
“Our campaign is working extremely hard to win this seat. We’ve been working very hard since March, stepped it up in May and only continued to step it up as we reach the finish line,” Rucker said. “My motto is ‘I won’t be outworked.’ I can honestly tell you this, I say my opponent may be prettier than me, my opponent may be faster than me, than me, my opponent may be smarter than me, in anything I do in life, but I won’t be outworked.”
Similarly, Corlew said he’s ready to put the work in to win.
“I just think that I’m prepared to do what it takes here, to meet the voters, to reach the voters and do all of that so that I can be victorious in November,” he said. “I think that the people of this district deserve someone that has worked for them that has fought for their middle class working families, as I have over the last term in the legislature. I think that will resonate with them and that they’ll come to the polls and vote for me to continue to fight for them.”