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Missouri Republicans build cash advantage over Democrats as primary races heat up


Missouri Republicans build cash advantage over Democrats as primary races heat up

Apr 16, 2024 | 2:51 pm ET
By Rudi Keller
Missouri Republican candidates build cash advantage over Democrats as primary races heat up
(Getty Images)

Missouri’s statewide Republican candidates have a huge cash advantage over Democrats, while Democratic candidates reverse that edge in contested state Senate seats.

Quarterly financial reports were due from all campaigns Monday, providing the last financial snapshot of upcoming primary battles until just a few weeks before Missourians vote on Aug. 6. 

This year’s ballot includes a U.S. Senate seat, five statewide offices as well as congressional and legislative races. Republicans hold all the statewide offices on the ballot, and there’s a GOP primary for every race except for the Senate seat held now by Josh Hawley.

As of March 31, Republican candidates for the five state constitutional offices had $24 million on hand, compared to $1.6 million for Democrats. 

Political observers rate three Senate seats – two held by Democrats and one held by Republicans – as toss-ups in November. The Democratic candidates, none of whom face primaries, hold about $1.1 million in their campaign accounts, while the Republicans, bound for a primary in two of the three races, have a combined cash on hand of less than $500,000.

The race for governor is the only statewide contest with candidates in both major parties running full-scale primary campaigns. A poll conducted in February showed large numbers of voters in both parties are undecided about their choice.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft had the largest number of committed voters, 28%, in that St. Louis University/YouGov Poll, but he had the weakest quarterly fundraising totals of the three top contenders for the Republican nomination. 

Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe was selected by 10% of those polled and state Sen. Bill Eigel was at 8%. Almost half of the voters said they were undecided.

Ashcroft’s campaign raised $160,000, and his joint fundraising PAC, the Committee for Liberty, took in almost $353,000. Ashcroft’s campaign has raised $649,000 since the beginning of 2023 and his PAC has collected $2.1 million.

Every major candidate has a campaign committee and a joint fundraising PAC. Candidate committees can accept donations of up to $2,825 for statewide offices, while there is no limit on donations to PACs. Candidates can help the PACs raise money but cannot coordinate other campaign efforts.

Kehoe had the best quarter of the three, raising $557,000 for his campaign and $1.9 million for his joint fundraising committee, American Dream PAC. Kehoe’s campaign has raised $2.2 million and his PAC has collected $5.3 million since the start of 2023.

Missouri Republicans build cash advantage over Democrats as primary races heat up
State Sen. Bill Eigel of Weldon Spring, a candidate for governor, speaks Feb. 29, 2024, at the Boone County Republican Lincoln Days dinner in Columbia (Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent).

Eigel’s committees took in more than Ashcroft, but his strategy of relying on small donors from outside the state is expensive, leaving him with less cash on hand than either of his rivals. Eigel raised $232,514 for his campaign committee and $354,085 for BILL PAC, his joint fundraising committee.

Of the 6,037 individual donors to Eigel’s campaign, who gave $148,220, only 194 listed addresses in Missouri. BILL PAC reported 958 donations from individuals, totaling $75,230, with only 20 from within the state.

Eigel has raised $1.1 million and BILL PAC has taken in $2 million since the beginning of 2023.

On the Democratic side, the SLU/YouGov poll showed House Minority Leader Crystal Quade of Springfield with 21%, businessman Mike Hamra at 4% and 66% undecided. 

Since entering the race in October, Hamra has put $500,000 of his own money into the campaign. His campaign and PAC have also outraised Quade in other donations. Hamra’s campaign committee has raised $773,000 in addition to his personal funding, compared to $746,000 for Quade. Hamra’s PAC, Together Missouri, has taken in $178,000 compared to $81,000 for Crystal PAC.

In the first quarter of the year, Quade reported 5,363 individual donors, who contributed $221,340, with 4,934 from within Missouri. 

Hamra reported 309 individual donors, who gave $255,000, with 103, donating $45,171, reporting addresses in the state.

Other statewide races

The Republican fundraising advantage is even more pronounced in the reports of candidates seeking the other statewide constitutional offices. Only one Democrat, attorney general candidate Elad Gross, has exceeded $100,000 in total fundraising, and he’s the only Democrat who tallied more than $10,000 in donations in the first three months of the fiscal year.

The contests:

Lieutenant Governor. Kehoe is giving up the office as he seeks to become the first to be promoted to governorship by voters since 1992. There are six Republicans seeking the nomination to replace Kehoe, with state Sen. Lincoln Hough of Springfield leading in cash on hand for his campaign and PAC over state Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder of Scott City and St. Louis attorney Dave Wasinger, the two others running full-scale campaigns.

Hough, the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, raised $22,875 for his campaign and $904,000 for Lincoln PAC during the first quarter. His campaign has $377,000 on hand and Lincoln PAC has $1.2 million on hand. 

Rehder raised $62,000 for her campaign and $38,000 for Southern Drawl PAC, giving her $302,000 in her campaign fund and $264,000 for her PAC on March 31. Wasinger, who gave his campaign $100,000, raised $237,000 and had $221,000 on hand.

On the Democratic side, House Assistant Minority Leader Richard Brown of Kansas City reported raising $1,526 and had $6,160 on hand. Brown faces Anastasia Syes of St. Louis, who raised less than $1,000, in the primary.

Secretary of State. Ashcroft is leaving the secretary of state’s office, resulting in an eight-way GOP primary where at least six candidates are running full-scale campaigns. 

Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher has the fattest campaign warchest, with $528,000 in his campaign account and $810,000 on hand with his PAC, Missouri United. But Plocher’s fundraising fell off a cliff in the first quarter of the year as he was plagued by an ethics investigation that included double-dipping by seeking personal reimbursement for expenses paid by his campaign. 

Plocher’s campaign raised $7,500 and his PAC raised $7,501 in the quarter.

Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller, who is making his second bid for secretary of state, had the best fundraising quarter of the field, taking in $32,270 for his campaign and $4,000 for his Safe Elections PAC. Schoeller lags the other major contenders in cash on hand, with just $21,000 in his campaign fund and $12,000 in his PAC fund on March 31.

The other candidates running full-scale campaigns are state Sen. Denny Hoskins of Warrensburg, who raised $13,882 in the quarter to push his cash on hand to $100,000 in his campaign fund and $8,500 to give Old Drum Conservative PAC a treasury of $154,000; state Rep. Adam Schwadron of St. Charles, who raised $6,500 in the quarter and had $82,706 in his fund; and state Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman of Arnold, who took in $3,100 and had $23,000 in her campaign fund, along with $77,290 in her PAC, Conservative Solutions for Missouri.

Former congressional staffer Jamie Corley, a late entrant in the race, has not formed a campaign committee.

State Rep. Barbara Phifer of St. Louis is one of three Democrats running. She raised $8,900, and had $9,000 in the bank at the end of the quarter.

Missouri Republicans build cash advantage over Democrats as primary races heat up
Vivek Malek speaks in the Missouri House chamber on Jan. 17, 2023, after being sworn in as State Treasurer (Photo courtesy Missouri Governor’s Office).

State Treasurer: Incumbent Vivek Malek, who took office at the beginning of 2023 after his appointment by Gov. Mike Parson, has put $800,000 of his own money into the race. That has helped him amass a treasury of $1.3 million. With another $1.2 million in his American Promise PAC, Malek has more than double the combined resources of his five rivals.

Attorney Lori Rook of Springfield, seeking her first elective office, put $500,000 of her own money into the race and has $506,000 on hand. The other candidates running full-scale campaigns are House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith of Carthage, who raised $13,390 in the quarter and has $331,000 in his campaign account and $174,000 in his Ozark Gateway Leadership Fund PAC; and state Sen. Andrew Koenig of Chesterfield, who raised $5,889 for his campaign fund during the quarter, leaving a balance of $114,000, and $3,000 for his Freedom’s Promise PAC, which had a balance of $67,065.

A Democratic candidate, Mark Osmack of Manchester, has not reported any fundraising.

Attorney General: Incumbent Andrew Bailey, another Parson appointee seeking a full term, faces Will Scharf, one of former President Donald Trump’s attorneys, in the August primary. Bailey raised just over $1 million combined for his campaign and joint fundraising committee, Liberty and Justice PAC, during the first three months of the year, but Scharf took in more.

Scharf raised just $42,000 for his campaign fund during the quarter but Club for Growth Action Missouri, which is backing his campaign, took in $1.6 million and reported a $1.4 million donation from Paul Singer, one of the nation’s richest hedge fund managers, just after the quarter closed.

Bailey has $564,000 in his campaign account and $1.9 million in his PAC, while Scharf is sitting on $824,000 in his campaign fund and Club for Growth had $2.1 million on March 31.

Gross, unopposed for the Democratic nomination, raised $38,000 in the quarter and had $80,000 in the bank.

State Senate races

There are 17 state Senate races on this year’s ballot, but politically polarized districts mean that only three – two in the Kansas City area and one in St. Louis County – are considered truly competitive.

Democrats already expect to pick up central Missouri’s 19th District in Boone County, where former state Rep. Stephen Webber has amassed almost $800,000 in his campaign fund and PAC account for the race against former state Rep. Chuck Basye, who has yet to establish a campaign committee.

The race that could end the GOP’s 24 to 10 supermajority is the 15th District in St. Louis County, where Koenig must leave office due to term limits. Democrats could have no net gain if they win the 15th and 19th but lose in the 11th District, the area around Independence, and the 17th District, in Clay County, where Democratic incumbents must leave office.

11th District: Senate Majority Leader John Rizzo of Independence is term-limited and state Rep. Robert Sauls, also of Independence, has amassed a campaign fund of $158,000 and has $185,000 in his Independence Leadership PAC. The committees raised $60,000 and $108,000 in the quarter, respectively.

Sauls will face the winner of a primary between state Rep. Aaron McMullen, finishing his first term in the House, Joe Nicola, who lost a Senate primary in the 8th District in 2022, and David Martin, the GOP nominee in the 29th Missouri House District in 2022.

McMullen raised $3,219 and had $66,931 on hand on March 31 in his campaign account and took in $16,000 and had $85,101 in his Independence PAC fund. Nicola took in $9,470 for his campaign and $2,450 for his Truth and Light PAC, giving him $42,199 in his campaign fund and $1,741 in the PAC at the end of the quarter.

15th District: Former Drury Hotels legal counsel Joe Pereles is one of the Democratic Party’s most prolific fundraiser in this election cycle, raising $120,865 in the quarter and amassing almost $400,000 in his campaign account. The Fearless PAC supporting his campaign took in $5,750 and held $26,584 on hand.

Pereles will face the winner of a GOP primary between St. Louis County Councilman Mark Harder, Wildwood Mayor Jim Bowlin and former state Rep. David Gregory.

Harder raised just under $7,600 in the first quarter and had $55,226 in his campaign account, along with $7,486 in the St. Louis Conservative Leadership PAC. Bowlin took in $11,545 and had $121,648 on hand, while Gregory raised $7,810 and had $130,364 in the bank.

17th District. The only competitive seat without a primary in either party is the race to replace state Sen. Lauren Arthur, a Kansas City Democrat. State Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern, a Democrat, raised $59,000 for her campaign and $79,000 for the Northland Forward PAC, giving her $297,000 in her campaign fund and $149,601 in the PAC account.

Her Republican opponent, four-term Clay County Commissioner Jerry Nolte, raised $7,900 and had $20,930 on hand.