Schupp launches bid for 24th District Senate seat in contest attracting statewide buzz
As she launched her bid for the state Senate, Democrat Jill Schupp sharply condemned the Republican-controlled General Assembly as being “nearly dysfunctional’’ and “off-the-wall extreme” – which she asserted made it more crucial that outnumbered Democrats begin to snatch back power.
The Democratic-leaning 24th District that she’s seeking, which spans central St. Louis County, is top on her party’s list because it’s now held by an increasingly conservative Republican, John Lamping.
“This Republican legislature, led by extremists, has betrayed our trust,’’ said Schupp, a state legislator from Creve Coeur, at a Thursday night kickoff in Frontenac that attracted more than 200 area Democrats.
The unexpectedly larger crowd, said Schupp and others, was a sign that the Democratic base is energized as it prepares for the 2014 elections.
Schupp contrasted her political philosophy -- “I believe that government can be a force for good ‘’ – with what she portrayed as a Republican majority in Jefferson City fixated on “extremist issues and time wasters on a shameful scale.”
During the latest session, she declared, “We spent a fraction of the time we needed on Medicaid expansion and job creation, but a vast amount of time turning victims of rape or incest who want the morning-after pill into criminals, and trying to make machine guns legal,” she said.
“We spent three days debating the ‘gold standard!’ “Schupp added, touching off disapproving murmurs and chuckles from her audience.
Her focus on Missouri GOP leaders in general -- Schupp didn’t mention Lamping -- reflected a fact repeated by many of the speakers and supporters: – that the 24th District contest has significance beyond its borders.
A Democratic victory in the 24th, she said, would be “a first crack in our opponents’ veto-proof majority’’ in the state Senate and House.
The Democratic stakes are high In 2014, Schupp said because the district is “one of a small handful of competitive races in Missouri. This will be the race to watch, and this will be the race the state is looking at.”
Another sign? The speeches delivered by House Minority Leader Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis, and Attorney General Chris Koster. The latter, a Republican-turned-Democrat, is running for governor in 2016 – and created buzz at last Saturday’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner when he pledged time and money to help Democratic legislative candidates like Schupp.
Before lauding Schupp, Hummel praised Koster for his commitment to help the heavily outnumbered Democrats in the state House and Senate.
Republican fury directed at Koster, Tilley
Koster also figured in a related controversy Thursday within GOP ranks, as Republicans around the state – notably Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles -- took note of his pledge as they blasted former state House Speaker Steve Tilley, a Republican, for donating $7,500 to Koster this week.
Koster and Tilley both said in interviews that the contribution reflected a longstanding personal friendship, on and off the golf course, and nothing more. Tilley emphasized that he and Koster disagreed on a number of issues.
Koster called the furor “much ado about nothing” -- perhaps because he has received far larger donations within the past year from far more prominent Republicans, including St. Louis businessman Sam Fox and wealthy financier Rex Sinquefield.
In any case, Koster sought to keep Thursday’s focus on Schupp, who he said in his speech regularly “exceeds expectations’’ in fundraising, in attracting crowds, and as a leader.
Thursday’s crowd was unusually large for a state Senate kickoff, as was Schupp’s prediction that her campaign will raise and spend at least $750,000 – regardless of her opponent.
Lamping, who couldn’t be reached for comment, has yet to say whether he’s running for re-election – uncertainty that’s also generating buzz within both party’s ranks.
St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmermann, a Democrat and former legislator, contended that Schupp was “the strongest candidate we can find’’ to win back the 24th – whether Lamping runs for re-election or not.