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Missouri's Republican and Democratic Parties Retool For Fall Elections

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Missouri’s Democratic and Republican parties have revamped their campaign operations, and installed new executive directors, just seven months before this fall’s elections.

The Missouri Democratic Party – which is fielding no candidate for state auditor -- also has taken the unusual step of dissolving the party’s state Senate and House campaign committees, folding control of those operations, and their money, into the state party’s coffers.

“We are building a structure that will help maximize our chances of victory for the long term,” said state Democratic Party chairman Roy Temple. “Legislative races are obviously a key part of that for 2014.”

The result is that the Missouri Democratic Party’s latest campaign report showed it had $416,619 in the bank as of March 31. A sizable chunk reflected the influx of money from the now-defunct legislative committees. The House Democratic Victory Committee, for example, transferred its treasury of just over $114,000 into the state party’s coffers by February.

By contrast, the Missouri Republican Party reported just $104,926 in the bank. But the Republicans are maintaining their legislative campaign committees. The House Republican Campaign Committee reported $541,887 in the bank, while its state Senate counterpart had $359,071 as of March 31.

The upshot: The three Republican campaign arms combined have over $1 million on hand – more than twice what the state Democratic Party has banked. The GOP is hoping, at minimum, to maintain its huge majorities in both chambers.

State GOP chairman Ed Martin said in a statement about the state party’s finances: “We continue to see support swell for our party, our candidates as well as the legislative committees committed to the conservative values we believe in. The generosity of our donors allows our party to continue the engagement and development of technology driving our success.”

Both parties' reports showed significant help from key donors, as well as the smaller required payments from all candidates who have filed for office for this year's August primary and November general election.

The Missouri Democratic Party received $50,000 during the past quarter from U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who has acknowledged taking a more active role in state party affairs. The state GOP's report showed that it received at least $20,000 from Hunter Engineering, a St. Louis-based firm headed by former U.S. Ambassador Stephen Brauer.

New leaders installed to oversee day-to-day operations

On Monday, the state Democratic Party announced that it had overhauled its staff as well. The party has hired Crystal Brinkley as the new executive director and Kristen Self as director of campaigns.  Both are to begin their new jobs as of next Monday.

Former executive director Joe Duffy is now working for Democrats in Iowa, where he is the coordinated campaign director.

Said Temple in a statement:  “I am thrilled to be building our team’s capacity with two talented professionals who are committed to the Democratic Party’s mission of improving the lives of Missouri families.” 

Brinkley has been finance director for the state party and previously worked in various capacities for Gov. Jay Nixon and for the presidential campaigns of Richard A. Gephardt, D-St. Louis County (who sought the White House in 2004), and Hillary Clinton, who ran in 2008.

Self has held various campaign posts for legislative Democrats in Indiana, including eight years as finance director for the Indiana House Democratic Caucus.

At the Missouri Republican Party, spokesman Matt Wills has been promoted to executive director, taking over for former state Rep. Shane Schoeller, who stepped down as executive director because he is running for Greene County clerk this fall.

Wills previously served as a regional political director for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign. Wills said in an interview that he plans to focus on improving the Missouri GOP’s voter database and get-out-the-vote operations. He added that the Missouri Republican Party expected to beef up its staff shortly for this year's statewide elections.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.