JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – As the special election for Missouri State Senate District 8 seat draws near, one thing has become clear: Republicans are anxious.
The GOP is no longer resting on laurels from the last election, having now witnessed a close and hard-fought race in House District 50 earlier this year and another tough race developing in SD 8.
In short, Republicans know that the victories now require work and money to get the word out. That’s because it looks like their Democratic counterparts may have turned a new page.
A number of Missouri politicos have started to wonder if Missouri is beginning to see the resurgence of Democrats, as the liberal party seems to have become more aggressive following their defeats over the past years.
The signs they’re pointing to as indicators of the potential rise are the exact same things making Republicans nervous. A close race in the special election in HD 50 could be such a sign, though others point out that Boone County has typically leaned bluer because of Columbia.
But the strategies being used in the SD 8 race could potentially signal a change even more. This week, the Missouri Times broke the news that the husband of Democratic candidate Hillary Shields signed a petition to add an independent candidate with a Republican background to the ballot in that race.
Republicans fear that the addition of Jacob Turk, the longtime Republican challenger of U.S. Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, will draw votes away from the GOP candidate, Rep. Mike Cierpiot, due to his name recognition from Turk’s past 12 years of campaigning.
Shields has confirmed that her husband signed the petition, and said that her husband is a registered voter and is allowed to sign any petition he wants.
Cierpiot and Republicans have called the strategy “dirty political games” and called for honest campaigns.
“Hillary’s only chance is with Turk on the ballot,” Cierpiot has been quoted as saying.
But for Democrats, the strategy is a significant one: it’s recognizing an opportunity to divide Republicans in a typically red district and give their candidate a chance at coming out as the victor.
In short, they want Turk on the ballot, which is why a Boone County Democrat fought a Republican attempt in court to keep him off the ballot. It’s why the Democratic candidate’s husband, as well as a number of Democrats, signed those petitions.
So, the simple answer is that, yes, Democrats have found an opportunity. And while some may call it a dirty political game, the fact is that Democrats, once again, are playing the game to win.
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces 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. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.