With less than a month to go before the August primary elections, tensions in the St. Charles County state Senate race are escalating — with some conservative groups coming to the defense of the incumbent.
Accusations of falsehoods, discrepant mailers, and “dark money” interventions have peppered the SD 23 primary race between incumbent Bill Eigel and attorney Eric Wulff. Dan O’Connell is also running in the GOP primary, but the drama has percolated between Eigel and Wulff.
About half a dozen mailers paid for by the Voters for Good Government committee circulated thus far in the 23rd District, accusing “Wild Bill” Eigel of supporting tax increases, the “defund the police” movement, Planned Parenthood, and more.
Voters for Good Government received a $390,000 donation from Americans for Limited Government, a conservative nonprofit based in the Washington, D.C., area, earlier this month.
William Hardin IV, the treasurer of Voters for Good Government, said he did not speak to the national nonprofit before receiving the donation. In fact, he said he had to look up Americans for Limited Government online once he saw the money in the account.
“By looking at what they believe in, I have to think they must have decided Eric was the better conservative choice,” Hardin told The Missouri Times. “I didn’t talk to them, but I had to assume a group like that with that kind of history doesn’t make contributions without doing research and talking to people themselves and came to the conclusion that Eric is the better candidate to push the ideals of limited government.”
But in an interview with The Missouri Times, Eigel called the mailers “some real whoppers.”
“I think that Eric Wulff is in danger of going down as one of the most dishonest candidates for public office in St. Charles County’s modern history,” Eigel, a leader in the Senate’s Conservative Caucus, said. “It’s incredibly unfortunate that he has spread more lies about me than he has taken policy positions on things that matter to St. Charles County residents.”
The mailers, he said, are “harmful to the Republican brand.”
‘We need Bill Eigel in the Senate’
Several groups have publicly come forward to stand behind Eigel, an Air Force veteran, following the mailers, including the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police. In a statement provided to The Missouri Times, President Rick Inglima said Eigel “is a proven champion for law enforcement and strongly opposes any effort to defund the police.”
“That is why we proudly endorse him for re-election,” Inglima said. “To suggest Bill Eigel supports defunding the police is simply not true and an effort to smear a proven champion for our members.”
While the Missouri Right to Life PAC endorsed multiple Republican candidates in some races, it only backed Eigel in SD 23.
“Bill is a pro-life champion and the attacks against his pro-life record are false,” Susan Klein, president of the Missouri Right to Life PAC, said. “Bill Eigel is one of the strongest pro-life voices in the Missouri Senate and, in the 23rd Senate district, he’s the only candidate with a proven, pro-life record. He has consistently fought to protect innocent life and defund Planned Parenthood. We’re proud to have endorsed him and encourage pro-life voters to strongly support his campaign for state Senate.”
Tim Jones, chairman of Missouri Club for Growth, also defended Eigel, praising his work to cut taxes in Missouri.
“His opponent’s lies and false accusations are what we expect from an establishment politician running against one of Missouri’s strongest conservative leaders,” Jones said. “We need Bill Eigel in the Senate to hold Republicans accountable and continue cutting taxes for Missouri families and job creators.”
“One of the things that I think has been beneficial for our campaign, over the past four years, Republicans and my constituents have gotten to know who I am,” Eigel said. “Not even the Democrats in my area are believing these lies. I think there’s a real question of credibility on Eric Wulff’s part.”
The SD 23 primary
Wulff jumped into the race on the final day of filing. He’s a partner at Burke, Wulff, Crosby, Luber, and Briscoe and practices both family and business law. He is also a former prosecutor and judge and sits on the Missouri Bar board of governors.
Hardin said he’s known Wulff for more than 20 years — in fact, their kids grew up together, Hardin said — and decided to back him after getting feedback from others in the district who have grown “dissatisfied” with Eigel, claiming some have felt “talked down to” by Eigel.
And Hardin maintained his mailers have already worked. Hardin said Eigel’s promise to propose a constitutional amendment preventing state-funded abortion clinics came after a Voters for Good Government mailer pointed to the senator’s “support” for Planned Parenthood.
“We’re not saying he’s not pro-life. But this is a Republican primary; 75 percent pro-life is not enough,” Hardin said, pointing to the score given by NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri.
Voters for Good Government reported having nearly $17,000 cash on hand in April.
Neither Wulff nor O’Connell had filing reports yet available.
Eigel, however, reported having more than $159,000 in his war chest at the end of the first quarter. And the Believe in Life and Liberty (BILL) PAC, which supports Eigel, had more than $408,000.
A representative for Americans for Limited Government did not respond to an emailed request for comment Monday. The so-called “dark money” group bills itself as a “non-partisan, nationwide network committed to advancing free-market reforms, private property rights, and core American liberties.”
Wulff did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.