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Statewide: Major GOP donor and perennial candidates add spark to Missouri's filings

Eric Schmitt, left, a state senator from Glendale, will be opposed by Dan Brown, a state senator from Rolla, in the Republican primary for state treasurer.
File photos | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

(UPDATED 12:40 p.m. Thurs, Feb. 25) The biggest surprise of Missouri’sstatewide candidate filings so far is that the GOP apparently will have a primary for state treasurer, despite expectations that state Sen. Eric Schmitt’s huge financial edge would give him a free ride.

And the Republican rival who filed against Schmitt, R-Glendale, had publicly endorsed him just three weeks ago.

State Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, issued a statement late Tuesday that praised Schmitt, without mentioning him by name, but cited “differences in philosophy.’’ Brown added that he also was “not only the only ‘true conservative’ …. but I will argue that I’m the only true Republican in this primary.”

On Feb. 3, Brown had been among a group of Republican officeholders, including Sen. Roy Blunt, who publicly endorsed Schmitt.

In reply, Schmitt said in a statement Wednesday that he had the support of more than 100 current and former legislators and “is entirely focused on his own campaign to bring conservative values and a strong work ethic to the state treasurer's office."

Schmitt declined comment about Brown. The last campaign finance reports showed Schmitt with $2.1 million in the bank, compared to $136,160 for Brown.

But Brown now a new major backer -- Joplin businessman David Humphreys, among the state’s top Republican donors.  On Thursday morning, the Missouri Ethics Commission reported that Brown had received $250,000 from Humphreys on Monday -- the day before filing  began.

Humphreys is a major supporter of “right to work,’’ which would curb union clout, and sources say he doesn’t view Schmitt as strong enough on that issue. Schmitt voted in favor of “right to work’’ last year, angering some labor groups who previously had supported him.

Schmitt also is a lawyer, and Humphreys has been pressing for some lawsuit curbs that some lawyer groups have opposed.

In 2012, Humphreys sought to unseat Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican, by donating $500,000 to Kinder’s primary rival, then-state Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah. Humphreys had been upset over the controversy generated in 2011 by Kinder’s photo with a former stripper.

Most recently, Humphreys has donated $750,000 to a new political action committee, the Committee for Accountable Government in Missouri.

Statewide primaries assured for all offices

The first two days of Missouri candidate filings also makes clear that both major parties will have primaries next August in all the statewide contests.

Some, like the Republican battles for governor and both parties’ contenders for attorney general, feature well-known candidates and/or lots of campaign cash.

But some of the other primaries have attracted candidates who are little known and have filed for office before without campaigning.

Leonard Steinman II
Credit Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio
Leonard Steinman II

Leonard Steinman II, for example, is a well-known perennial candidate in the Jefferson City area. He’s run for mayor, county office and for Congress. He’s now running as a Democrat for governor against Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster.

Steinman said in a brief interview Tuesday that he was running for governor because “I know about disabilities more than anyone does.” He travels around in a hand-painted bus.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., so far has three GOP rivals, including Kristi Nichols of Independence, Mo. She’s known as “Mrs. Independence’’ and had run for the Senate against Blunt in 2010.

In the Democratic contest for the U.S. Senate, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has two challengers. One is Cori Bush of Florissant. She is a nurse and pastor, and had been active in the Ferguson protests.

The third Democrat in the Senate race, so far, is Chief Wana Dubie of Salem, Mo. He has a tattoo on his forehead of a burning marijuana leaf.

Filing pace below 2012

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, 343 candidates had filed in Jefferson City for legislative, congressional or statewide offices, or for outstate circuit judges who are elected. Tuesday's first-day filing tally was 335 --almost two-thirds of them Republicans.

In any case, this year's first-day filing total was down from the last presidential-election year in 2012, when Missouri saw 394 candidates file for office in Jefferson City.  That year, like this year, far more Republicans filed on the first day than Democrats.

Filing for the August primary ends March 29.

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