Three House reps vying for bids in one of the last purple strongholds
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The race to fill the seat left vacant by now-Commissioner Ryan Silvey has officially begun, and though the committees will not choose their nominees until April, the names of potential candidates are already being thrown around.
Gov. Eric Greitens on Friday set the date of the special election to fill the Senate District 17 to take place on June 5 of this year after appointing the former state senator Silvey to the Missouri Public Service Commission in January.
It appears the Governor has called the special election to replace me in the Senate for June 5th. Get ready, Clay County. We are about to be the center of the Missouri political universe. #moleg pic.twitter.com/cnCKdlrtsi
— Ryan Silvey (@RyanSilvey) February 17, 2018
Silvey served eight years in the House, serving as the youngest House Budget chair in the history of the state before moving on to the Senate in 2012. While there, he proved to be an independent senator, developing a reputation as a moderate Republican who oftentimes could be seen breaking from his party and clashing with both members of Senate leadership and the Governor.
Filling Silvey’s shoes will already be a hard task for any incoming senator to take on, but winning the election in the Clay County-based seat could be even more tough, as the district is one of the few true “toss-up” districts in the state.
And that means that both a competitive – and expensive – race should be expected, as Republicans look to hold the seat and prevent the Democrats from flipping the seat.
There’s still plenty of time between now and April 12, but Rep. Kevin Corlew looks to be the contender for the Republicans, though he has not officially announced.
The Democrats have two legislators who have expressed their interest in running – Rep. Lauren Arthur and Rep. Mark Ellebracht.
Ellebracht confirmed on his Facebook page back in January that both he and Arthur were being considered for the nomination, saying that there was “a lot that has to be evaluated by the Party’s nominating committee.”
To win the nomination, a candidate must first be nominated before the committee, which the nominee will accept or decline.
“I’m not going to decline that nomination if I receive it, but a person can decline,” Ellebracht said. “Right now, the only two people who have said they would accept the party’s nomination is Lauren and me.”
“It’s sort of a friendly competition,” Ellebracht said of Arthur and his potential bids. “I won’t hold any grudges if she gets it, and I’ll do everything I can to help her win. But hopefully, if I get the nomination, then I hope that would be reciprocated.”
That sentiment is echoed by Arthur, who said the opportunity to flip a seat from was one that could not be passed upon, particularly in one of the last true purple districts in the state.
“For me, this is home…it’s really the only home I’ve ever known,” Arthur said. “For me, they’re not just constituents, they’re family, friends, and neighbors.
“This is a great opportunity to flip the seat from red to blue and we certainly need greater balance in both the House and the Senate,” she said. “So it is more important to me that we put all divisiveness aside and unite behind the candidate to flip that seat.”
Seeing that a more moderate approach has been effective in the past, the question now is which candidate can reach and charge that voter base in such a manner as Silvey successfully managed to.
A recent poll conducted by the Remington Group on behalf of MoScout displayed the results of a hypothetical election between Corlew and Arthur if it were held today. The results of that poll were broken out by House districts, showing Corlew beating Arthur in HD 12, 16, and 17, while Arthur would have claimed HD 15 and HD 18, while also tieing Corlew in HD 38.
Those results seem indicative that Corlew would have an upper hand in Liberty, but Ellebracht says he believes he could fare well in that area, noting that he won his district as a Democrat, a feat that had not been accomplished since the 90s.
Arthur seems to carry the upper hand among women in the Senate District, according to the poll, but her numbers among women almost mirror those of Corlew among men.
But again, the real factor will be the moderates in this race, and in that area of polling, Arthur claimed 58 percent compared to Corlew’s 21 percent. The rest reported themselves as undecided.
There’s good news for both sides in the race, however: while the district tends to lean more Democratic, Republicans should have a significant advantage in terms of fundraising.
The special election for Senate District 8 this past November saw Republicans dump hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race, a far cry from what the Democrats spent in that race.
The two parties’ committees are scheduled to make their nominations by April 12, but the nominations could come much sooner, depending on the committees’ decisions of when to meet.
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 email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.