JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – With Election Day just a day away, all eyes seem to be watching Senate District 8 as voters look to decide who will replace former Sen. Will Kraus in Missouri’s upper chamber.
The campaign has taken several interesting turns in the past few months, with Democrats allegedly aiding the independent candidate, Jacob Turk, in his attempt to get on the ballot. The Democratic candidate, Hillary Shields, hopes to upset the Republican candidate, Rep. Mike Cierpiot, by splitting the GOP ballot using Turk, who has run several times as a Republican in his quest to unseat Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver.
To many observers in the political realm, the move by Shields and the Jackson County Democrats is simply pulling a trick “straight out of the McCaskill playbook” by putting Jacob Turk on the ballot.
It seems that has been confirmed several times over, as it was revealed that Shields’ husband and a number of Democrats, including Shields’ volunteers and donors, signed the petitions to get Turk on the ballot. The petitions gathered by Turk were challenged in court, and even though some were thrown out, he still gathered the exact number needed (629), thanks in part to those signatures and the aid of attorney Brianna Lennon, a Democrat from Boone County.
Now, in the last hours of the campaign, Shields is using the money raised by her campaign to send out a mailer which seemingly is attacking her opponents, but in a different fashion.
The mail piece labels Turk as “too conservative,” but instead of appealing to those on the fence about conservatives, the ad campaign appears to be targeted at strong conservatives, signifying an attempt to once again pull votes away from Cierpiot and into Turk’s camp.
The ad says Turk is anti-immigration, anti-choice, received a 90 percent rating from Gun Owners of America for his stances, all things that should turn off the more liberal voters but speak well to the more conservative voters. It even says that Turk was endorsed by Missouri Right to Life for his anti-choice stance, but that particular item on the mailer may need some clarification, as Cierpiot received that endorsement in this election.
When asked about her husband’s signature to get Turk on the ballot, she confirmed to the Kansas City Star that her husband did sign, saying he was a qualified voter and allowed to sign any petition he wants.
“We’re not afraid of the competition. I’m not sure why my opponent is,” she said.
Cierpiot in past weeks accused Shields of “dirty political games,” saying it proves “clear and coordinated collaboration” between Turk and the Democrats.
In a Facebook post earlier in the campaign, Shields’ father responded to a comment about the benefits of two Republicans running, saying his daughter was very aware of those benefits.
“Divide and conquer,” he wrote.
Whether the tactic will be enough remains to be seen on Tuesday, but splitting the vote between two Republicans could, in theory, prove enough to put Shields in the seat. Turk has polled at about 10 percent, rather unlikely odds for winning the election, but he could pull enough votes away to give the Democrat a chance of slipping away with the victory.
Benjamin Peters was a reporter for The Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine and also produced 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.