JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Republican Party will need to elect a new chairman in a few short weeks, and front runner John Hancock has two new challengers in the race.
Early this week Ed Martin, the current MRP Chair, formally confirmed that he would not seek re-election to the post, opting instead to take over a position as President of Phyllis Shlafly’s Eagle Forum. Martin, a former Republican candidate and beloved by Tea Party organizers, was also facing a challenge from longtime Republican strategist, John Hancock.
Hancock, a party elder, now has two new challengers vying for the chairmanship. Nick Myers, who is Chairman of Newton County Republicans and a long-serving state committee member and Eddy Justice, Butler County and 8th congressional district republican chairman, both announced later in the week that they were officially courting votes for MRP Chairman.
“I have all the respect in the world for John Hancock,” Justice said. “He is a political consultant though. How can you be a really effective party chairman if you’re representing a candidate in the primary? And so, to me, the party needs a fresh image and a fresh face. I believe we need to have a different option.”
Justice has made his name as a prolific fundraiser. Justice was behind efforts to pool cash for the House Republican Campaign Committee, a committee that just finished its best election cycle, ever. Myers has been an activist in Newton County as a Republican for decades. He did not respond to requests for a comment.
Both Myers and Justice share a grassroots background with a focus on activism, while Hancock is a former party executive director and has worked at the highest levels of Republican politics. Hancock’s challengers are working to use his resume against him.
Hancock has vowed not to let his background as a consultant interfere with his work, pledging not to take a salary while serving as chairman and promising that the state party will not hire his consulting firm during his time as chairman. In fact, Hancock says his background in consulting makes him a better candidate.
“The only reason a consultant shouldn’t be doing the job is if they intend to do it to enrich themselves personally,” Hancock said. “I’m not going to do that. I’ve raised money for the Republican Party for 16 years between 1997 and 2012 and I know how to fix the biggest problem the party faces.”
The problem? The MRP is about $40,000 in debt, a surprising problem given Republican dominance of fundraising for House and Senate races.
Sources with close knowledge of the MRP committee say that Hancock’s 45 firm or likely committed votes has shrunk. With 35 votes needed to win, Hancock has spent the last few days reaching out to every committee member once again, beginning with those who had pledged support. Since “going back to 0,” Hancock has locked down about 28 votes as of midday Friday, according to sources who asked not to be identified discussing the process.
How quickly all three candidates are able to rally votes may depend on whether or not there are more hats about to be thrown into the race. Several Republican Party sources told The Missouri Times that Jack Spooner, a former Republican primary candidate for senate and St. Louis-area attorney, was asked to enter the race as well. Spooner indicated he wouldn’t be seeking the post.
“We have some excellent candidates,” Spooner said. “I trust their interests are the same as mine.”
The MRP state committee will officially vote for a new chairman on February 21 at the annual Lincoln Day event.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.