JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – It’s only been a matter of weeks since Jacob Turk won his case to be included on the ballot for the Nov. 7 special election for the vacant Senate District 8 seat, but the story seems to keep taking more turns.
Turk, a longtime Republican challenger against U.S. Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, turned his sight on the state senate seat left open by Republican Sen. Will Kraus over the summer, but the Republican committee chose House Majority Leader Mike Cierpiot as the GOP nominee.
Turk sought to run as an independent candidate and collected signatures to put his name on the ballot alongside Cierpiot and Democrat candidate Hillary Shields. Republicans pleaded with Turk not to run, fearing the split of the GOP vote and the allowance of a Democratic victory in a historically Republican-dominated district.
After turning in more than 900 signatures, party leaders challenged the validity in court, arguing the timeline was wrong and attempting to discredit the signatures. After a few hours of hearing testimony, the judge ruled in Turk’s favor.
That, normally, would be the end of it, but the eyes are still scouring the signatures, weeks later, and they’ve turned up another noteworthy item that indicates that the Democrats’ plan has been hoping that Turk’s running would indeed hurt Cierpiot’s chances.
Republicans were quick to point out the fact that Turk’s attorney in court was Brianna Lennon, a Columbia Democrat. Turk has stated that he was referred to her by a friend, and they shared a common interest: their sentiment that political parties want to exclude voters from having too much of a voice.
But the latest turn is that one of the petition signatures gathered by Turk’s supporters belongs to Mitch Shields, a name that matches that of the husband of the Democratic candidate. In fact, the address listed on the petition also matches that of the Shields’ residence, per Missouri Ethics Commission records. (See the third signature from the bottom.)
In short, it seems to prove that the Democrats definitely see splitting the vote as their best chances of putting a Democrat in office. The interesting thing to watch here will be how this plays out in the election: can Turk takes enough votes from Cierpiot to cost him a victory Republicans had felt strongly about? But even more importantly, will the knowledge that Democrats ai Turk affect how many votes he gets?
Benjamin Peters was a reporter for The Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine and also produced the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined The Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield.