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Missouri candidates flock to file for August 2024 primary, but Democrats block Sarah Unsicker

Voting booths on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022, at the St. Louis Public Library in Carondelet.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Voting booths on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022, at the St. Louis Public Library in Carondelet.

More than 435 candidates filed to run for office. But Missouri Democrats blocked state Rep. Sarah Unsicker from joining the governor race, after she was kicked out of the caucus for her social media activity and personal associations.

Missouri’s candidates for a slew of federal, state and local offices flocked Tuesday to sign up to run in the state’s Aug. 6 primary.

But at least one candidate was unsuccessful in her attempt to file for office: state Rep. Sarah Unsicker.

The Shrewsbury Democrat announced her bid for governor in early January. But Missouri Democratic Party officials blocked her efforts to file on Tuesday, citing, among other factors, how Unsicker was kicked out of the House Democratic Caucus.

“We have prepared this statement to inform you the Missouri Democratic Party will not accept your filing fee as a Democrat in our primary,” said attorney James Paul in a letter to Unsicker. “Having been removed from the House Democratic Caucus by your peers, the Missouri Democratic Party does not wish to associate with you as a candidate.”

In a statement, Unsicker’s campaign said, “Sarah Unsicker is a candidate for governor of Missouri and a proud Democrat.”

Unsicker, who was initially running for attorney general, was booted from the caucus for, among other reasons, her social media activity and her association with Charles Johnson. The Anti-Defamation League includes Johnson on its list of Holocaust deniers, citing comments he made in 2017 on Reddit in which he doubted the number of Jews killed and whether the Auschwitz concentration camp is real. Johnson told Politico in 2018 that he is not a Holocaust denier.

Democrats then kicked Unsicker out of their caucus, with House leaders saying in a statement that she “is free to choose her associations, but the caucus enjoys that same freedom.”

Unsicker said at the time that she believed “the charges against me are a character assassination from a wing of the party that I want nothing to do with.”

From left, state Sen. Bill Eigel, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe have raised millions of dollars in their bids to succeed retiring Gov. Mike Parson.
Dominick Williams
for the Kansas City Beacon
From left, state Sen. Bill Eigel, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe have raised millions of dollars in their bids to succeed retiring Gov. Mike Parson.

Crowded governor contest

Meanwhile, the three major Republican candidates to succeed Gov. Mike Parson — Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and state Sen. Bill Eigel — all filed on Tuesday.

“I think it's going to be about letting people live their own lives,” Ashcroft said. “People that are concerned because they're going to the grocery store and have to put products back on the shelf because they don't have the paycheck to support that.”

Kehoe, the fundraising leader in the race, said the contest is about who can actually lead the state.

“I consider myself conservative to the core,” Kehoe said. “There's a big difference between being able to talk conservative and how all your values are and everything that you think is important and governing.”

Eigel, who has quarreled with Republican leaders over a multitude of issues, said he developed an independent streak over his time in the Missouri Senate that will serve him well as governor.

“We're going to get rid of personal property tax, we're going to protect our farmland, we're going to deal with the immigration problem that's plaguing our state,” Eigel said.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade signed up to run on the Democratic side. Quade said she expects Democrats to get a boost from a possible ballot measure that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution.

“And so I refute the fact that our state is a one-party state,” said Quade, of Springfield. “Democrats have been flipping seats and state House races for the last several cycles. And absolutely with reproductive health care on the ballot this year, we know that folks are going to turn out.”

The Missouri State Capitol on Thursday, May 11, 2023, in Jefferson City.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The Missouri State Capitol on Thursday, May 11, 2023, in Jefferson City.

Crowded races abound

As of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, more than 435 candidates had filed for offices including governor, state senator and state representative, as well as U.S. Senate and House seats.

Two major Democratic candidates — Lucas Kunce and state Sen. Karla May — filed to take on Republican U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley. Kunce, who is making his second bid for the Senate after falling short in the Democratic primary in 2022, has raised millions of dollars since declaring for the seat last January.

“It's about putting money back in this state,” Kunce said. “The guy I'm running against doesn't care about that.”

May, who has trailed Kunce in fundraising since announcing her Senate bid last year, said she’s planning on proving naysayers wrong — pointing out how she won races for the state House and Senate despite being outspent.

“I'm the most qualified candidate in this race that has filed so far,” May said. “I have more legislative experience than the current sitting senator in this race.”

Hawley did not file for reelection on Tuesday but is expected to in the near future. His campaign announced the endorsement from the Missouri Farm Bureau PAC, which also backed his bid for Missouri attorney general in 2016.

Two congressional contests that include parts of the St. Louis area will also have crowded Aug. 6 primaries. U.S. Rep. Cori Bush is facing off on the Democratic side against St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell and former state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal.

Bush, D-St. Louis County, said she plans to campaign on her record of bringing back money to the 1st Congressional District and standing up for marginalized people both in St. Louis and abroad.

“And I will say it every single day: St. Louis deserves a representative that not only lives here, but believes in the people and wants the people to actually have the change that they've been asking for,” Bush said.

Bell said, “We need steady and effective leadership in our district” and criticized Bush for voting against a number of Democratic priorities such as the federal infrastructure bill and support for Israel.

“We have to recognize that our democracy is on the line and democracies across the globe are being threatened,” Bell said. “And we have to be reliable partners to our reliable partners.”

Chappelle-Nadal said she will be a vocal advocate for the federal government to be held accountable for radioactive waste exposure throughout the St. Louis region.

“We have a lot of challenges in the 1st Congressional District, including radioactive waste,” Chappelle-Nadal said. “And right now those issues are not being addressed as they should.”

Eight Republicans filed to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer in Missouri’s 3rd Congressional District. They include state Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman and former state Sens. Bob Onder and Kurt Schaefer. Former Boone County Clerk Taylor Burks is also expected to get into the race.

Copyright 2024 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Since entering the world of professional journalism in 2006, Jason Rosenbaum dove head first into the world of politics, policy and even rock and roll music. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Rosenbaum spent more than four years in the Missouri State Capitol writing for the Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri Lawyers Media and the St. Louis Beacon. Since moving to St. Louis in 2010, Rosenbaum's work appeared in Missouri Lawyers Media, the St. Louis Business Journal and the Riverfront Times' music section. He also served on staff at the St. Louis Beacon as a politics reporter. Rosenbaum lives in Richmond Heights with with his wife Lauren and their two sons.
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