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TWMP Column: Blaine Retires, As the Senate Republican Caucus Turns

Blaine retires
This afternoon, Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer announced his retirement. He is a great Missourah statesman, and it will be just nigh impossible to replace him. 
However, here is my quick take on some of the folks who could look to replace him. 

Folks who probably run:
Former Senator Onder: 95% of his lifetime comments on public policy have been about federal issues, I can’t see any way he doesn’t jump in and fast. Also if you’re looking for winning Powerball numbers, ask Senator Rehder as she is on quite a run. I suspect Senator Onder doesn’t wait 24 hours to forget all about that Lt. Governor campaign.  

Senator Travis Fitzwater: The district looks like it was drawn for him. His father has nearly 75% name ID in Cole County and he represents nearly 60% of the rest. This is also a free shot for him as he won’t run for re-election until ’26.

Senator Mary Elizabeth Coleman: She lives near the district in JeffCo and has the most raw political talent of anyone not only in this race, but this state. The district could lay a little easier for her, but she is in mid-cycle and has a lot of the connections to win a federal race. She is also one of the few women considering running. 

Those who might run:
‘22 candidate Taylor Burks: He is a veteran and ran a great race last cycle, but can you really run from Boone County when it’s cut in half? Better question, would he want to do it again?

Former Governor Eric Greitens: Hell yes he would love to run. The marble in the capitol has grooves from the fingernails of the folks who call public service the swamp dying to say on the public dole.  The last public job he had he quit after 17 months, then he came in a distant and kinda sad 3rd in a senate primary. I would be surprised if he didn’t take any chance possible to get back in any way possible. At least it would spare us the desperate motivational quotes he has taken to posting on twitter.

State Senator Andrew Koenig: While he doesn’t live in the district he might choose this race over a three-way State Treasurer’s primary. He would be a great congressional candidate as he can raise hard money in small dollars and is the one candidate in this state that WILL knock his doors. 

Former Senator Dave Schatz: There are a lot of members of congress like former Senator Schatz. Former legislators who can put enough of their own money into the race to be a big contender. In fact he could be replacing one. The drawback would be not having Franklin County in the district.

Will Scharf: Currently running a very solid campaign for Attorney General, but he does have more Washington D.C. connections than anyone on this list. I doubt he moves out of his A.G. race, but he would be formidable in any race he entered. 

Wentzville Municipal Judge Mike Carter: He has the money to pump into the race, and he ran in the state senate district that includes every media market in the congressional district. This might be the year, and the race that works for the judge. 

Drew Dampf: He is a CD3 native, growing up in California, Missourah home of Alex Tuttle and the ‘98 state champion Pintos who has spent his entire adult life working in GOP politics, and state government. Including his time working for Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe and now Senate Majority Floor Leader Cindy O’Laughlin, Drew has many Mid-Missouri connections that could prove very valuable in a congested congressional campaign. 

Derrick Good: The JeffCo attorney has all the connections and can raise all the money if he makes a run. The money he doesn’t raise he can put in himself. I don’t know if he makes the plunge, but if he does he will make an impact.

Rep. Phil Christophanelli: He would make an excellent congressman, state senator, or governor. Phil Christophanelli is a transformational figure for Missouri Republicans. 
My #SteinOfKnowledge predicts that he will be the leader who takes a lot of the right-wing reforms that never make sense and never pass and makes them actually add up and finally passes them. 
However, I’d bet he does that over the next 20 years as State Senator, Lt. Governor, and Governor, not as a congressman in ‘24. 

Those who probably won’t run: 
Missouri Association of Electric Cooperative CEO Caleb Jones: Look, he is the best candidate, would make the best congressman, and hell if he ran I’d quit and go put up signs for him. However, if he wanted to run for Congress I think he would have last time, and he would have won. 

Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden: Again, I figure if he wanted to be in Congress he would have run and won last time when he could have drawn the district. 

Mayor of the City of Jefferson Ron Fitzwater: This man defeated the downtown meter main infestation. He has cut more gubment than everyone on this list combined x 10. He is a hell of a man, and could actually fill Blaine’s shoes, but I doubt he does. However, his son will benefit from his name ID though. 

State Senator Mike Bernskoetter: Personally I would enjoy seeing him in Washington just beat the hell out of someone for giving him lip. Come to think of it you might get to see that here in town this winter. Either way, I doubt he really wants to go to Washington. 

State Senator Nick Schroer: He has an ideal makeup for Congress, but I tend to doubt that he would run against former Senator Onder.  

Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe: Would be great, but how could he walk away from the $5 million he has raised for the Governor’s race that you can’t transfer? 

State Senator Bill Eigel: Again, would make a great candidate, but I’ve always thought that he had an understanding that if the seat came open he would support Senator Onder. 

Resident Badass Jen Bukowsky: I doubt she would run, but it would be epic, and I would love it.  

Jesus Osete: Very smart, very savvy attorney from Columbia. With Boone County cut in half, I assuem he will continue with his judge race.

State Representative Jeff Myers: I don’t think he runs, but I just really like this dude. 

Senate Week 1 recap:

The Senate gaveled in Wednesday with a welcome address from Senator Rowden. 

Senators Schroer and Brattin took the floor telling everyone that their new and improved Conservative Caucus from D.C. will not focus less on hating Republicans and killing legislation, but will instead focus on passing legislation. 
Then, the Senators spent a half hour hating on Republicans and stoking animosity that will kill a bunch of legislation if the trend continues.

If Senator Rizzo is secretly funding this new and improved caucus then he will replace Senator Webster as the greatest Senate Minority Leader in Missourah history. 

Next, Senator Eigel and Senator Hoskins took to the floor where Senator Eigel gave his stump speech for Governor. 
He then referenced something that could be a very important piece to this session, when he said he was told last session that they would get to his legislation later in the year. He then reserved some aggressive tactics because he felt his legislation would ultimately pass at the end of session. 
However, this time around he was not going to wait, relying on promises that his legislation would pass. Eigel was going to be aggressive from day one forcing his legislation to pass. 

It’s probably true that Senator O’Laughlin was more diligent about communicating than Senators Rowden and Schatz

However,  in the end Senator O’Laughlin couldn’t pass any more of their legislation than Senator Schatz and Rowden could. However, they did give her a longer runway, which appears to be over. 

The interesting point will be if they give a vote to some of Senator Eigel’s legislation, will they be happy? To be fair, it failed in committee last year and there was a floor vote on Senator Hoskins’ gambling bill. They just didn’t have the votes, and I’d doubt they do this year. 

I suspect their colleagues will have some sympathy for them complaining about not getting a vote, and a lot less about them not having 18 votes for their legislation. When they spend most of session on the floor preventing everyone else’s legislation from getting a vote. 

Today’s session kicked off with Senator Eigel introducing his resolution to have senate subs sit on the calendar for 72 hours to prevent the rush of pushing through an unvetted sub. 

In my humble hillbilly opinion, this makes a lot of sense. It would also make a lot of sense for senators who want to filibuster bills to walk line-by-line with the bill sponsor through the legislation on the floor, instead of reading god-awful boring books. 

Then things cascaded off the rails when Senator Hoskins inquired of Senator Bernskoetter. They were very close friends in the House, but the divide in the Senate has ended that and there is some real personal animosity there today. 

Apparently, Senator Bernskoetter did a radio interview this morning at the prayer breakfast and said something about the new and improved Conservative Caucus that Senator Hoskins did not appreciate. 

Now this is surprising to me because if you have ever interviewed Senator Bernskoetter, he really doesn’t say a whole lot. I’m serious, it’s a little like pulling the plow uphill. However, he must have found the magic phrase because Senator Hoskins was pretty unhappy. 

It was a long, tense, and just generally really bad vibe from the entire thing. 

Just as the entire thing was about to take an even uglier turn, Senator O’Laughlin stepped in between them in the line of debate and made a motion to adjourn. To which Senators Hoskins, Brattin, and Eigel did not approve of, and Senator O’Laughlin did not seem to care about. 

You can trust this recap or you can obviously listen to the multiple recaps that will go down at 4:00 Monday. 

All of this drama was just a slightly more intense version of a normal day as the Republican Senate Caucus turns, except for the part that matters to legislation. 

Due to the filibuster and the drama that ended today, Senator Rowden was unable to refer any of the bills, so no committees next week. 

A.K.A. another win for the Democrats…by doing literally nothing but staying in their offices and watching the show. Senator Webster would be proud. 

Sunday on This Week in Missouri Politics is our first of-season edition featuring House Speaker Dean Plocher, House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, Senator John Rizzo, and Senate President Caleb Rowden.