With month to go, primary campaign heats up
For the next few weeks, Missourians will be swept into virtual front-row seats to witness the battles within the Republican and Democratic ranks as both parties undertake the politically messy process – which ends at the ballot box on Aug. 7 -- of choosing their nominees for the November ballot.
And because Missouri is an open-primary state, any registered voter can participate – but they can choose only one party’s ballot. Ballots will be available for the Republican, Democratic, Libertarian and Constitution parties. But they will not feature candidates from any other political party.
Absentee voting for the primary has been underway for almost two weeks, since June 26. Missouri residents who haven’t yet registered to vote still have time. Voter registration for the primary ends at 5 p.m., Wed., July 11.
As has been the trend in recent elections, most statewide primary battles this year are among Republicans. In fact, all but one statewide office (the exception is state treasurer) features two or more GOP contenders.
Arguably the most spirited Republican contest is for the U.S. Senate, for which three high-profile candidates – John Brunner, Sarah Steelman and Todd Akin -- have been sparring for months.
But there’s also a three-way battle among prominent Republicans battling for secretary of state and an increasingly combative contest for lieutenant governor, in which the two-term incumbent is under siege from a fellow Republican challenger.
Meanwhile, the marquee statewide primary contest for Missouri Democrats also is for lieutenant governor, in which eight candidates – including three particularly well-known hopefuls – are jockeying for the nomination.
Otherwise, regional Democrats are focused on the increasingly bitter fight between two incumbent members of Congress – William Lacy Clay and Russ Carnahan – who were tossed into the same district as a result of new boundary lines mandated by the 2010 census. Missouri also is losing one of its congressional seats.
Locally, some state Senate and state House seats are being hotly contested, with some new districts pitting incumbent against incumbent. Because of the polarized nature of many of the region’s legislative districts, many Aug. 7 primary victors will be deemed shoo-ins in November.
That’s especially the case in St. Louis, which is overwhelmingly Democratic. The primary victor in the crowded Democratic contest for treasurer will be the odds-on favorite to win in November.
The August primary ballot for all the parties will include only one ballot proposal: Constitutional Amendment 2, which deals with religion and the U.S. Constitution. According to the ballot summary, the measure’s provisions include language that “school children have the right to pray and acknowledge God voluntarily in their schools; and that all public schools shall display the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution.”
Here’s a brief overview of some of the major Republican and Democratic contests on the Aug. 7 ballot. The Beacon will be offering more detailed looks on many of the races in the coming weeks.
Among the Republicans
For all of the GOP’s reputation as an organized party, internal Republican battles often have been the most spirited contests on Missouri primary ballots.
This August features even more such fights than usual. Twenty-two Republicans are running for the six statewide posts to be filled this year.
Eight Republicans are running for their party’s U.S. Senate nomination, although only three have been particularly active: U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of Wildwood, St. Louis businessman John Brunner and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman.
The three are each seeking to challenge U.S. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., in the fall.
All three share many of the same conservative views and have participated in at least 17 forums or debates. Brunner already has spent more than $2 million on TV ads.
Three other Republicans are competing for governor: Kirkwood businessman Dave Spence, Kansas City consultant Bill Randles and anti-abortion activist Fred Sauer.
So far, they have held no major three-way debates, and so far only Spence has spent money on TV ads. All three embrace similar views.
The GOP battle for lieutenant governor has touched off far more sparks, with incumbent Peter Kinder – who is seeking a third term – in an increasingly nasty match with state Sen. Brad Lager of Savannah.
Three Republicans also are jockeying for secretary of state, which is particularly attractive race since incumbent Democratic Robin Carnahan is not seeking a third term. The three Republicans are: state Rep. Shane Schoeller of Willard, Mo. and state Sens. Bill Stouffer of Napton, Mo. and Scott Rupp of Wentzville.
Two Republicans – St. Louis lawyer Ed Martin and Livingston County Prosecuting Attorney Adam Warren – are competing for attorney general. The two are vying to challenging the Democratic incumbent, Chris Koster, in November.
Locally, two Republicans – former Ambassador Ann Wagner of Ballwin and former Webster Groves councilman Randy Jotte – are competing for the open 2nd District congressional district. Incumbent Akin is running for the U.S. Senate.
Among the Democrats
Perhaps because Democrats hold most of Missouri's statewide offices on the Nov. 6 ballot, there aren’t many contests for the party’s nominations.
McCaskill, Koster, Gov. Jay Nixon and state Treasurer Clint Zweifel have no opponents or (in the case of the governor) none who are actively campaigning.
State Rep. Jason Kander, D-Kansas City, also has no active opposition in his bid for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state.
But there’s a Democratic crowd – eight – competing to run for lieutenant governor. They include three well-known women -- former state Auditor Susan Montee, former state Rep. Judy Baker of Columbia and state Rep. Sara Lampe of Springfield – and state Rep. Fred Kratky of St. Louis. Also running: St. Louis School Board member Bill Haas.
The marquee Democratic contest in the St. Louis is arguably the fight between Carnahan and Clay for the 1st District congressional seat. Party leaders sought to avoid the battle, which was prompted by the statewide redistricting map crafted by the Republican-controlled Missouri General Assembly that tossed the two into the same district.
Both men have snagged endorsements from prominent Democratic officials or aligned groups.
Meanwhile, in St. Louis, four Democrats are fighting to succeed retiring city Treasurer Larry Williams, who has held office for more than 30 years but lately has come under fire over management issues.
The four seeking to replace him are: city Democratic Party chairman Brian Wahby, state Rep. Tishaura Jones and Aldermen Jeffrey Boyd and Fred Wessels.
Another hot primary contest in the city of St. Louis is in the newly drawn 5th state Senate District, where three Democrats -- incumbent Robin Wright Jones and state Reps. Jamilah Nasheed and Jeanette Mott Oxford -- are fighting it out. The Aug. 7 victor is considered a lock in November.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, a Democrat, contends that while primaries can, in general, be disliked by party leaders and activists -- the internal fights can actually be a help in the November election.
Why? They can capture the public's attention, Slay said.
"The more people feel engaged, the more people feel they have a stake," he contended. "I think primaries do raise awareness and provide information to voters. Robust and contested primaries do get people energized for the general election."