JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —With campaign spots now in full swing this week, the GOP race for Missouri lieutenant governor is heating up and a recent poll suggests that Bev Randles has flip-flopped with her opponent, Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, and taken the lead.
Randles, an attorney and former chairwoman of Missouri Club for Growth, is leading over Parson, her main Republican rival, with 23 percent of respondents saying they would vote for her over Parson’s, who had 20 percent. Arnie Dienoff of O’Fallon, Mo., registered at 5 percent.
That reverses the trend of recent months, which showed Parson consistently held the lead. The survey, conducted by Remington Research Group for Missouri Scout, was conducted in major Missouri cities from June 17-18, with 963 likely Republican primary voters participating.
The poll showed that 52 percent of the respondent categorized themselves as undecided.
Both candidates will square off this weekend during a televised debate on This Week In Missouri Politics, hosted by The Missouri Times publisher Scott Faughn.
Randles, a native of Sikeston, Mo., launched television ads last week and Parson followed suit this week with his TV spots.
Todd Abrajano, a consultant for the Randles campaign, said that he expects Randles lead to grow as voters continue to learn more about her leading up the August primary.
“This is what I’ve said all along,” Abrajano said. “As more people get to know Bev, they’ll tend to swing her way in the election and these numbers bear that out. Between the last poll and now, Bev’s up 7 and Mike’s down 5. We like that trend and we expect that to continue.”
The race still looks to be tight and able to swing either way, especially with that many undecideds. Randles led in some of the state’s more populous areas, such as St. Louis, Kansas City, St. Joseph and Columbia. But Parson won other areas handily, such as Kirksville, Hannibal and Springfield.
Parson adviser James Harris said Wednesday that he thinks the race is wide open.
“We feel very confident about Mike’s message,” Harris said. “Our opponent received a tremendous amount of resources from a limited number of donors. But nobody will outwork Mike Parson. Both sides are just now advertising so in a couple of weeks, we expect to see big changes as people start paying more attention.”
In Randles television ad, she acknowledges she has never run for public office before but touts that she is a “proven conservative.” Former Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones is quoted in the ad, saying that Randles, as chair of the fiscally conservative Missouri Club for Growth, fought “relentlessly in support of tax relief.” She also says she’s pro life, pro Second Amendment and that she opposes common core.
In Parson’s first campaign ad, which began airing statewide on Tuesday, he said his Missouri values run deep and are rooted in agriculture. He informs viewers that he’s a third-generation farmer, veteran and former sheriff. Parson says he fought against Obamacare and supports gun rights. He promised, as lieutenant governor, to cut spending, cut taxes and “get the federal government off our backs.”
The Democratic primary features former Congressman Russ Carnahan, State Rep. Tommy Pierson Sr. and Winston Apple of Independence.