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Democrat Lucas Kunce says he’ll challenge Josh Hawley in Missouri's 2024 U.S. Senate race

Lucas Kunce, democratic candidate for Missouri’s open U.S. Senate seat, on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, during an abortion-rights protest at the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse in downtown St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Lucas Kunce on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, during an abortion-rights protest at the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse in downtown St. Louis. Kunce says he will run for U.S. Senate again to challenge Josh Hawley.

Kunce chose the second anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection to make his announcement. Hawley received fierce criticism for his actions, from pumping his fist at in support of protesters before a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, to his decision to contest Biden's victory.

Marine veteran Lucas Kunce announced Friday that he plans to challenge U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley in the 2024 race for U.S. Senate in Missouri.

Kunce, 40, chose the second anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection to make his announcement. Hawley received fierce criticism for his actions on the day of the insurrection, from pumping his fist at in support of protesters before a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol to his decision to contest President Joe Biden’s victory after the riot was quelled.

In a video posted to social media announcing his campaign, Kunce highlights the fist pump, as well as video of Hawley running through the Capitol fleeing the violent, pro-Trump mob.

“On Jan. 6, 2021, Josh Hawley showed us he’s a fraud and a coward,” Kunce said in announcing his campaign. “Missourians deserve a U.S. Senator who’s willing to stand and fight. That’s why I’ve decided to take him on.”

Hawley has defended his actions on that day, arguing in an op-ed that he was trying to “have a debate on the issue of election integrity.” He even began raising money using the image of the fist pump.

Kunce ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate last year, finishing a close second to Anheuser-Busch heiress Trudy Busch Valentine.

During the race Kunce’s populist style and Ivy League résumé won him national attention, including profiles in the Washington Post Magazine and POLITICO and appearances and spots on MSNBC and FOX News.

And until Valentine joined the race and began pouring her own fortune into the campaign, Kunce raised more money than any other candidate — Republican or Democrat — despite a refusal to accept donations from pharmaceutical executives, corporate political action committees and federal lobbyists.

All told, Kunce managed to raise nearly $6 million.

Now he’s hoping a populist message and small-dollar donors that fueled his 2022 campaign will help him topple Hawley in a state that has just elected Republican Eric Schmitt to the U.S. Senate by 13 percentage points. President Joe Biden lost Missouri by 15 percentage points in 2020.

“When things get tough, Missourians deserve someone who will stand up for them, not run for the nearest exit,” Kunce said. “Our politicians have betrayed Missouri. They’ve forgotten that their job is not only to defend our democracy, but also to fight for the people in it.”

Kunce grew up in Jefferson City and is a graduate of Yale University and the University of Missouri Law School. He currently lives in Independence and works for the American Economic Liberties Project, a think tank that according to its website works to “challenge monopolies’ dominance over markets and society.”

Hawley was elected Missouri attorney general in 2016. He launched his bid for the U.S. Senate a year later, eventually beating Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill 51% to 45%.

Last year, Hawley endorsed U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler in the GOP Senate primary. She went on to lose to Schmitt by more than 20 percentage points. He is currently writing a book called “Manhood” that argues “a republic depends on certain masculine virtues.”

This story was originally published on the Missouri Independent.

Jason Hancock has been writing about Missouri since 2011, most recently as lead political reporter for The Kansas City Star. He has spent nearly two decades covering politics and policy for news organizations across the Midwest, and has a track record of exposing government wrongdoing and holding elected officials accountable.
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