Here are top candidates for Missouri's state offices
The Kansas City Star
A lot of shuffling has gone into the decks Missouri primary voters will see when they vote in statewide races on Aug. 7.
The liveliest contests are for lieutenant governor on the Democratic and Republican tickets. The secretary of state race has also drawn a highly competitive GOP primary.
These “down ballot” offices are often launching pads for bigger-ticket posts like governor and the U.S. Senate. So voters should choose carefully.
Four candidates, all with negligible political experience, are vying for the Republican nomination and a shot at incumbent Democrat Jay Nixon. In this field, businessman Dave Spence stands out.
Spence, from the St. Louis area, recently stepped down as chief executive of Alpha Packaging, a Missouri company with more than 800 employees. He has made some campaign gaffes, and questions linger about his tenure on the board of a bank that opted not to repay a federal loan that was part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program. But he understands that Missouri lags behind the rest of the nation in many important measures, including funding for colleges and universities. And he is flexible enough to note that, while he wants to see income taxes reduced over the long term, the state budget can’t absorb more losses at the moment.
Spence is challenged by Bill Randles, a Kansas City lawyer who is prone to extreme positions, such as calling for elimination of the state income tax and a move to a statewide school voucher system. Fred Sauer, a St. Louis businessman mostly known for his opposition to some forms of stem cell research, is on the ballot, as is John D. Weiler of Pevely, who has not waged much of a campaign.
On the Democratic side, Nixon has nominal opposition from Clay Thunderhawk and William B. Campbell and should definitely advance.
The Democratic primary drew eight candidates, including three of the smartest and most dynamic women in Missouri politics.
Our choice is Susan Montee. A lawyer and accountant from Jefferson City, she was a strong state auditor before losing to Republican Tom Schweich in 2010. Montee’s auditing experience makes her knowledgeable about all facets of Missouri government. She could easily step up and serve in the governor’s stead if needed. She also is familiar with the boards on which the lieutenant governor has a seat.
Other excellent candidates are Judy Baker of Columbia, a former state representative who most recently served as regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Sara Lampe of Springfield, a state legislator who has served on the House budget committee. But for us, Montee’s knowledge and experience as a government watchdog give her the edge.
Rounding out the field are Becky Plattner of Grand Pass, a member of the state Conservation Commission; former representatives Fred Kratky, of St. Louis, and Jackie Townes McGee, of Hayti; St. Louis school board member Bill Haas; and Dennis Weisenburger, of St. Joseph.
The Republican race is much more problematic.
Incumbent Peter Kinder is facing a fierce challenge from state Sen. Brad Lager. Kinder has hardly distinguished himself in his two terms as lieutenant governor. He showed poor judgment by billing the state for expenses incurred while attending personal and political functions, and he got himself in hot water with visits to a bawdy Illinois nightclub.
But Lager has raised questions by taking extravagant campaign donations from people who have a clear agenda to influence Missouri government. He has received a total of $700,000 from David Humphries of Joplin and $500,000 from Stan Herzog of St. Joseph. Both donors have been active in attempts to influence the selection of judges in Missouri.
Rex Sinquefield, the St. Louis investment banker who wants to promote school vouchers and eliminate the state income tax, recently gave Lager $380,000. And though Lager has irresponsibly called for a special session so that Missouri can “opt out” of its responsibilities under the Affordable Care Act, he works for Cerner Corp. and received $100,000 from Jeanne Patterson, wife of Cerner chief executive Neal Patterson.
In the end, we are less bothered by Kinder’s indiscretions than by Lager’s campaign account. So the incumbent is our choice in this primary.
Charles W. Kullmann of St. Louis and Mike Carter of St. Charles are also on the ballot.
Secretary of state
Two House members and a state senator are vying for the Republican nomination to replace Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, who is retiring.
Unfortunately, all three GOP candidates are strong backers of a government-issued, photo ID requirement, which would impose a burden on voting for many elderly and low-income residents and college students.
Though we disagree with him on many issues, Missouri Sen. Bill Stouffer, of Napton, has impressed us with his efforts to find a funding source to improve Interstate 70. Also, a funny campaign video touting the merits of his dog shows he has a sense of humor. Stouffer is our choice over Shane Schoeller of Willard and Scott Rupp of Wentzville.
On the Democratic ballot, state Rep. Jason Kander of Kansas City is a strong candidate who faces nominal opposition from MD Rabbi Alam, also of Kansas City.
Adam Lee Warren is a young lawyer who has worked as city attorney for Chillicothe and prosecutor for Livingston County, and as a JAG officer for the Missouri National Guard. He appears to have potential. His opponent in the GOP primary, Ed Martin, was a disaster when he was former governor Matt Blunt’s chief of staff.
The winner will take on the powerful incumbent, Chris Koster, who is running unopposed.