As the 2018 campaign wore on, there were rumblings that state Senator Scott Sifton was looking ahead to a potential 2020 campaign for governor. The recent fundraising totals show that he is not only looking at making the race, but many Democrats and Democratic donors are taking a look at him as well.
With the 2020 campaign beginning in earnest after the holidays, Sifton has over $300,000 on hand: a hefty sum in the post-Amendment 2 world of campaign contribution limits.
With a war chest amassed in a Democratic Party that has struggled to raise money at the state level, he sticks out in the potential 2020 field.
“Senator Sifton has always been someone I could rely on the Senate side to help with anything,” Democratic Rep. Mark Ellebracht said. “He is one of the top contenders that the Missouri Democratic Party has to offer.”
Many are looking to soon-to-be former U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill to see if she is interested in making a bid for the position — a race that she previously made in 2004 and a job she has openly said she would like to have. However, some Democrats are supporting Sifton or another Democrat as a fresh face coming off of a disappointing 2018.
McCaskill would have to start fundraising from scratch, and the other often mentioned 2020 Democratic gubernatorial candidate State Auditor Nicole Galloway has just over $37,000 on hand. The other Democratic candidate that has been rumored is former Congressman Russ Carnahan who lost a 2016 bid for lieutenant governor (oddly enough, against now-Governor Mike Parson) who has just over $20,000 on hand.
While Sifton stands out among Democratic candidates, some Democrats have noticed is that Sifton currently has more than $25,000 cash on hand than Parson himself.
“He’d be an amazing governor,” Rep. Michael Butler, chair of the House Democratic caucus, said. “Senator Scott Sifton would be a Governor who can combine fresh ideas and leadership with internal government knowledge and experience. His work as an attorney in Missouri and a Senator in the Senate gives him exceptional ability to understand what every citizen needs while leading at the highest levels of government. He is well respected amongst his colleagues in the legislature, and has always lead the way on major issues concerning our state.”
In addition to money, Sifton has a lot of political capital to expend. With Kansas City roots and St. Louis as home, Sifton is an accomplished lawyer who has developed a reputation as an impassioned advocate in the legislature. He represents a district that has split Republican and Democratic House districts within it.
Further, Sifton is entering a legislative session where the Republican majority has openly discussed plans that would have a negative impact on attorneys in the state. Many see this as an opportunity for Sifton, who has previously taken the lead in opposing Republicans in such debates, as a chance to shine in front of many Democratic donors and activists.
It’s one of the reasons there was such a clamoring for Sifton to see re-election to the state Senate and forgo a run for attorney general. He may have been fortunate to have skipped that race as President Trump carried Missouri by 19 percent, generating a Republican sweep of statewide elections.
“Scott brings two things Democrats badly need right now: a fresh approach and the proven ability to win tough races,” said Senate Minority Floor Leader Sen. Gina Walsh.
For all of the rising levels of speculation about Sifton and his war chest, he is holding his cards close to his vest.
“I’m grateful for the support we’ve received to stay in the fight in the years ahead,” Sifton said. “Missouri has both challenges and opportunities in front of it. I look forward to continuing to lead our state forward.”
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted the #MoLeg podcast. She joined The Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.