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Missouri Voters Reject Right To Work, Set Up Hawley Vs. McCaskill And Other Races

Samuel King
KCUR 89.3
Union members gathered Tuesday at the Pipefitters Local 533 Hall in south Kansas City.

A Republican-backed push to change the ways private-sector unions collect dues or fees failed Tuesday, and Missouri's midterm U.S. Senate election will pit Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican, against incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. 

Tuesday's primary also lined up a race for a key Missouri Senate seat in northwest Missouri, and saw Kansas City-area voters pick a Democratic candidate for Jackson County executive as well whether to start a rental inspection program in the metro. 

These major races drew out voters in larger-than-usual numbers for a primary: County election boards estimated turnout was about 30 percent. Check out more results from Missouri's primary election here.

Right to work

Missouri won’t become a right-to-work state, as about 67 percent of voters chose to overturn a law passed last year that would ban unions from requiring workers to pay dues or fees.

Republicans delivered a right-to-work bill to former Gov. Eric Greitens quickly after he took office in 2017. He signed it but the issue was forced to a statewide vote by unions, keeping the law from taking effect almost a year ago until the vote on Proposition A.

Forty years after the last statewide vote on right to work, Missourians handed another victory to unions, which represent 8.7 percent of Missouri workers. Lots of union money, both in and out of state, flowed into the race. 

The main group who opposed Proposition A, We Are Missouri, gathered at the Pipefitters Local 533 Hall in south Kansas City on Tuesday night. Kelly Street of the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen said unity on the issue was key.

“This is a union and non-union issue. This affects all the workers in the state of Missouri,” Street said.

And national AFL-CIO Secretary and Treasurer Liz Shuler said that the people who worked against Proposition A gave what they could.

“Every answer to every question was yes, everything we asked for … we’re so grateful,” she said.

Last week, Gov. Mike Parson said in Kansas City that he didn’t expect the vote to be the final say on the measure, but didn’t give specifics. Republican legislators are likely to attempt to pass another bill.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who stopped by the union hall after it was clear Proposition A failed, said that any move toward right to work in the state legislature would be "an insult to Missouri voters and I think it’s going to backfire on those who are pushing this again.”

Union backers argued that a right-to-work law would have lowered wages and weakened unions. Supporters of right to work, which is law in 27 states, had said it would make Missouri more business-friendly. 

Credit Aviva Okeson-Haberman/KCUR 89.3 and Claire McCaskill / Flickr — CC
Attorney General Josh Hawley will take on U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill in November's election.

U.S. Senate  

Hawley, who won with about 58 percent of the vote, was the handpicked GOP candidate, with the backing of President Donald Trump, Gov. Mike Parson, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and dozens of state GOP lawmakers.

Hawley beat out 10 other candidates, including former libertarian Austin Petersen and military veteran Tony Monetti. Hawley received the most votes of any Republican in Missouri — even Trump — in the 2016 election when he won the attorney general’s office.

The race between McCaskill, who won her primary handily, and Hawley is expected to draw millions of dollars in outside money and play a role in whether Democrats flip the Senate.

Both McCaskill and Hawley said in statements that they want to debate each other ahead of the Nov. 6 election. McCaskill proposed four town-hall style debates, saying, Missourians deserve the same chance to ask you questions and hear your answers as they have consistently had with me."

Hawley wants "a series of one-on-one debates ... no moderator, no complicated rules. Just me and Claire McCaskill debating on the back of a flatbed truck, traveling all over the state to air out our differences."

Credit Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Marie Jackson

Marie Jackson was at a watch party in Lee's Summint on Tuesday and said she threw her support behind Hawley after seeing him in Blue Springs over the weekend due to his anti-abortion stance.

"He had all the checkmarks I wanted in a candidate," she said.

Lee's Summit resident Debbie Havens voted for Courtland Sykes due to the way Hawley went after Greitens, but said she'll vote for Hawley in November.

"I will have to vote for him because I can't vote for Claire," she said, adding, "I don't think he stands for anything"

The weekend before Tuesday's election, Hawley told KCUR that he was looking forward to "earning everybody's vote" for the November election and "uniting together as a party to beat" McCaskill.

State auditor

Attorney Saundra McDowell emerged victorious out of the pool of four candidates for the GOP nomination for state auditor. McDowell, from Jefferson City, will take on incumbent Democrat Nicole Galloway in the general election.

Galloway is one of only two Democrats to hold statewide office, the other being McCaskill.

McDowell defeated state Rep. Paul Curtman of Pacific, Ballwin alderman Kevin Roach and suburban St. Louis attorney David Wasinger.

34th Senate District

The race is set to fill outspoken Republican Sen. Rob Schaaf’s seat come November: Tony Luetkemeyer won the GOP primary by about 1,000 votes. Luetkeymeyer will face off against former NFL player Martin Rucker for the 34th Senate District, which covers Platte and Buchanan County.

"This is a race that is going to be a focal point, I think, for both parties. It's going to be a race that's hard-fought, but we're up to the challenge, we're up to the task, and I'm looking forward to it,” Luetkemeyer told KCUR on Tuesday night.

Roberts won the majority of votes in Buchanan County, where he is the presiding commissioner. To that, Luetkemeyer said people in the two counties “want the same thing.”

“They want good-paying jobs to put food on the table, they want good schools for their kids to go to, they want safe streets and communities to raise their families in,” he said, adding that his team knocked on 20,000 doors. "I think the grassroots effort is what really drove the race."

Jackson County executive

Jackson County Executive Frank White stands at a podium with the Jackson County seal on the wall behind him and to the right and an unidentified woman to the left.
Credit KCUR 89.3 file photo
KCUR 89.3 file photo
Jackson County Executive Frank White

Despite a troubled tenure, Frank White has a good shot at staying in office, beating Matthew Merryman and Jeremy Raines in the Democratic primary.

"I think it goes back to trust, that's what I thrive on. My name is important to me. I worked a lot of years to get it to this point,” White told KCUR at a watch party in Independence. “Politically, you can have a lot of shots taken at you, but I think the biggest thing is just to make sure you stay upbeat, take the high road and focus on getting things done."

White has one more election to get through against a Green Party candidate in November. Little will change: White will still have to handle the overcrowded, underfunded Jackson County Detention Center.

"The jail has been in this situation a long time. It’s not fair to put this jail on my administration when it’s been underfunded and neglected for over 20 years,” he said.

He said he expects a full report with recommendations from a consulting group in early September. In response to criticism that he’s piling recommendations onto recommendations, White had this to say: “The jail is nothing that’s going to be built overnight."

The former Kansas City Royal also said that it’s his “nature to be competitive, I’ve been a winner all my life in sports.”

“And the voters have elected me twice to political office. This is just a real good indication from my standpoint that the voters still trust me,” he said.

Question One in Kansas City

Fifty-six percent of Kansas City voters went for a proposal to start a rental inspection program through the Department of Health.

The program will make landlords pay an annual per-unit fee so that the city could hire inspectors to check out tenant complaints.

Lora McDonald is the executive director of MORE2, an interfaith social justice organization which backed Question One. She said this is a big step in balancing the power between landlords and tenants.

“The renters of Kansas City, like me and all the people I know who work so hard, they’ll have access to real tenant rights for the first time,” McDonald said.

Supporters of the measure say it will hold landlords accountable for unsafe conditions that pose health risks. Opponents had argued that the law would have unintended consequences, such as higher rents and random, warrantless searches.

Dozens of cities across the U.S., including neighboring Kansas City, Kansas, already have such laws.

Samuel King is the Missouri politics and government reporter for KCUR. Email him at samuel@kcur.org and follow him on Twitter: @SamuelKingNews

Aviva Okeson-Haberman is a KCUR news intern. Follow her on Twitter: @avivaokeson

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter: @_tudhope

Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.

Nicolas Telep is a KCUR news intern. Follow him on Twitter: @NDTelep

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.
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