Saint Louis, Mo. — The razor thin margin that will decide the 24th senate district race will likely be decided in this final week as Republican Jay Ashcroft and Democrat Jill Schupp trade barbs over bills dealing with Missouri’s sex offenders.
Earlier today, Ashcroft issued a press released demanding Schupp “declare to voters her position” on Missouri’s Amendment 2. The measure will appear on the November ballot and supporters say it is aimed at fixing a loophole in Missouri law. In cases of sexual crime involving a minor, most prior convictions of a relevant nature are not admissible by the prosecutor. The change will allow relevant evidence of prior criminal acts to be admissible in the prosecution of such crimes, which is the standard used by federal courts and other states. Detractors say it is inherently prejudicial to allow such evidence into admission.
The Ashcroft campaign slammed Schupp on the issue, saying she “sided with dangerous predators.”
“The voters of the 24th Senate district deserve to know why Schupp voted against Amendment 2, choosing to protect a loophole that makes it harder to prosecute sexual predators instead of siding with child victims,” Ashcroft said in a written statement. “Additionally, voters deserve to know why Schupp has such a disturbing record of repeatedly voting to protect dangerous sex offenders instead of standing up for victims of these horrific crimes.”
Ashcroft has also been running a new television ad, which largely mirrors the press release. The Schupp campaign quickly made their own television ad in response. Schupp opens the ad telling the viewer she understands voters are fatigued by the influx of ads.
“But a good friend of mine was brutally murdered by a sexual predator,” Schupp said. “After this horrible attack I worked even harder to keep sexual predators behind bars. But Jay Ashcroft is using the issue of sexual violence for political gain in attacks he knows aren’t true. Shame on him.”
In one prominent charge, Ashcroft says Schupp voted to allow sex offenders to coach youth sports programs. The accusation stems from a 2009 vote on an amendment to a bill which made various changes to criminal law and harsher restrictions to sex offenders. Schupp voted in favor of an amendment striking some language restricting sex offenders arguing with her fellow Democrats that the amendment went beyond the legal scope of the underlying bill.
Schupp ultimately voted to send the bill and it’s new restrictions on sex offenders to the governor. As far as her position on Amendment 2, Schupp issued the following statement.
“No one wants any sexual predator to go free. Voters will decide whether a constitutional amendment is the best way forward on this issue. I will continue working in the legislature to protect children, women and families from sexual predators.”
It likely won’t be fully known if the last-minute blitz will be effective until Election Day. The race between state representative Schupp and the son of former United States Attorney General Ashcroft has surprised some by becoming perhaps the most competitive race in the state. Democrats have long seen the district as leaning in their favor, with outgoing Republican Senator John Lamping’s win coming by barely 100 votes after the senator ran as a moderate and won the endorsement of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Schupp, widely regarded as a tenacious campaigner, is competing with a disciplined Ashcroft campaign that’s perhaps one of the best-staffed teams in the state. Ashcroft’s last-minute cash infusion from the Missouri Senate Campaign Committee — an arm of the Republican Party — give the two candidates almost identical cash on hand for the final stretch. A 250K media buy from Missouri Club for Growth will also help Ashcroft in the final days before polls open on Tuesday.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.