Senate District 34: Race to replace Schaaf heating up

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The void left in the wake of the departing Sen. Rob Schaaf will be a tough one to fill, but as the August primary looms just around the corner, several contenders are eyeing the seat.

Two Republicans are vying to represent Platte and Buchanan County as the next state senator: Buchanan County Commissioner Harry Roberts and attorney Tony Luetkemeyer.

Luetkemeyer has been the frontrunner in terms of money, with his last filing showing $380k in the last quarter. Roberts’ tally came in at roughly $150k.

But several have speculated that Roberts’ campaign has picked up steam heading into the August primary, noting a couple of key factors.

Roberts has picked up some endorsements, including that of Schaaf, as well as former U.S. Senator Kit Bond. In late July, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and David Steward of World Wide Technology hosted a roundtable luncheon and fundraiser for Roberts, with former Speaker Tim Jones, former Rep. Kirk Matthews, and Senator Andrew Koenig in attendance.

And while Luetkemeyer has been the leader in fundraising among state senate candidates, the recent events involving former Gov. Eric Greitens have not done him any favors. His connection to Greitens, including the fact that his wife, Lucinda, served as the ex-governor’s general counsel, has led to what some are calling a shift in support, as Greitens is no longer in office and in a position to funnel support to his campaign.

Up until late June, the advertising for either candidate has been relatively quiet, other than canvassing, yard signs and mailers, but Roberts struck the first blow over the airwaves with a short TV advertisement just a couple of weeks ago, with an ad claiming that Luetkemeyer supports legalizing drugs.

Luetkemeyer responded in the media, telling News-Press Now:

“My opponent has a record of raising taxes, increasing spending and accepting illegal campaign contributions, so it’s no surprise his first ad is gutter politics. It’s clear he’s more interested in running a desperate, negative and losing campaign than in focusing on the issues that matter to voters.”

Meanwhile, Roberts could be facing some heat of his own, as a complaint against the Republican Senate candidate that had been previously dismissed by the Missouri Ethics Commission is resurfacing.

In November of 2017, a complaint was filed alleging that Roberts’ state senate committee took “illegal company money, a violation of Missouri’s newest campaign contribution law, better known as Amendment 2 from the 2016 election.

The complaint at the time had been dismissed, as the commission had stated that it was too far out from the primary election, but an investigator would be assigned to the case if the complaint were re-filed during the 60-day-window before the August 7 primary.

The refiled complaint says that following the submission to the MEC in November, the candidate and his committee were put on notice. Roberts, nor his committee, commented on the alleged violations and did not refund the contribution. The complaint says that once put on notice, any refusal to refund the donation is a “knowing and willful violation” of the law.

Read more on the original complaint here:

Ethics complaint filed against Roberts’ Senate campaign

The winner of the August 7 primary will face Democratic candidate Martin Rucker in the general election.

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 benjamin@themissouritimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.