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Candidates shift attention — at least some — from raising cash to attracting votes

Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander and U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt are the front runners for the Democratic and Republican nominations in the next Senate race.
official photos

With Missouri’s primary and general elections just months away, some of the state’s top candidates are focusing on their base as much as their bank account.

That’s particularly true of the state’s U.S. Senate candidates — Republican incumbent Roy Blunt and his Democratic rival, Secretary of State Jason Kander.

Kander held a news conference on Monday morning with a number of African-American officials — including St. Louis city Treasurer Tishaura Jones — who are headlining a new group, The Black Community for Kander. Meanwhile, on Saturday, Republicans held a rally in west St. Louis County for Blunt and U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin.

Both events come just after Friday’s deadline for the candidates’ latest campaign-finance reports, which showed Kander narrowly outraising Blunt since Jan. 1. But Blunt still has more in the bank.

(Kander reported raising $1.31 million since Jan. 1, compared to Blunt’s $1.25 million. As of March 31, Blunt has $5.47 million in the bank, while Kander reported $2.82 million.)

The rally and news conference are aimed at galvanizing key voting blocs that both men will need to claim victory in November. Blunt needs suburban Republicans, while Kander must have strong turnout among black Democrats.

(Neither man is paying attention to his August primary, because neither man has a serious challenger within his own party.)

During his event, Kander expressed his support for a number of policy proposals that emanated from the unrest in Ferguson — including providing body cameras for police officers and eliminating "bias in the criminal justice system." He went onto say that "conversations are important — but talk is not enough. We need action at the local, state and federal level."

"After the events in Ferguson started a conversation in Missouri and across the country, I was compelled to work harder for the many Missourians who are disenfranchised, marginalized or face discrimination — because black lives matter," Kander said.  

Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander stands with St. Louis License Collector Mavis Thompson and state Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis, at his Monday news conference.
Credit Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander stands with St. Louis License Collector Mavis Thompson and state Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis, at his Monday news conference.

Missouri’s U.S. Senate contest already is among the most closely watched in the country, in part because of Kander’s money-raising success against Blunt, who’s long been known for his own political prowess.  Because it will be close to the top of the November ballot (right after the presidential nominees), the Senate race also could play a significant role in generating voter enthusiasm for the rest of each state party's ticket.

Credit Courtesy of Blunt campaign
Blunt addresses volunteers Saturday at GOP office in St. Louis County

Still, like many of Missouri’s statewide candidates, Kander and Blunt are seeking more attention after weeks of being overshadowed by the presidential contest. 

In preparation, groups allied with both Senate campaigns have recently launched attack websites, which foreshadow nasty blasts in the coming months.

Little change in battle for governor

The fundraising frenzy has been underway for months for several statewide offices, especially since -- aside from Blunt -- there are no incumbents seeking re-election.

In Missouri’s contest for governor, the financial facts remain the same. Author Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, continues to raise more money than any of his three Republican rivals.

And the sole major Democrat, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, continues to outraise them all.

Clockwise from upper left: Eric Greitens, Catherine Hanaway, Peter Kinder and John Brunner

The latest campaign finance reports show that Koster had one of his best fundraising quarters so far, collecting almost $2.2 million since Jan. 1. His campaign bank account now holds $7.45 million.

Greitens raised $1.015 million during the past three months, and reported $4.13 million in the bank as of March 31.

Among the other three Republicans, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder came in second for the quarter, with donations totaling $328,295. He reported $624,521 in the bank.

Former Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway raised $254,251 since Jan. 1, and now has $1.58 million in the bank.

St. Louis businessman John Brunner collected $158,057 during the quarter, with a bank account of $3.235 million. His total includes $3 million of his own money.

Hawley makes inroad against Schaefer

Outside of the GOP battle for governor, the hottest Republican contest is between the party’s two contenders for attorney general: state Sen. Kurt Schaefer and law professor Josh Hawley, both from Columbia.

Since Jan. 1, Hawley has collected almost five times as much as Schaefer: $431,188 to the senator’s $93,363.

State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, left, and professor Josh Hawley came out swinging in their campaigns for the Republican nomination for attorney general.
Credit official photos
Kurt Schaefer, left, and Josh Hawley

Schaefer continues to have the most in the bank, $2.08 million (including a personal $500,000 loan) to Hawley’s $1.1 million.

Among the two Democrats running for attorney general, St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman has $1.34 million in the bank, after collecting $203,403 since Jan. 1. His rival, former Cass County Prosecutor Teresa Hensley raised $92,567 during the same period, and reported $284,126 in the bank.

In the contest for Missouri secretary of state, Republican Jay Ashcroft collected $383,280 during the quarter. He reported $531,101 in the bank. His GOP rival, state Sen. Will Kraus, has raised $73,130 since January 1, and had $723,257 in the bank.

The best-known Democrat seeking the post, former TV newswoman Robin Smith, raised $59,372 during the past three months and reported $95,570 in the bank.

Other downballot contests

In this year’s battle for lieutenant governor, Republican Mike Parson now has $1.07 million in the bank after raising $125,088 since Jan. 1. His chief GOP rival, lawyer Bev Randles, reported $616,012 in the bank; she collected $64,079 in donations during the quarter.

Among the Democrats, former U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan raised the most: $189,675 during the quarter and, after expenses, reported $172,583 in the bank. State Rep. Tommy Pierson raised $1,918 since Jan. 1 and reported $11,094 in the bank.

In the state treasurer contest, state Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, continues to lead all comers when it comes to money. He reported close to $2.6 million in the bank after raising $614,195 since January 1. His GOP rival, state Sen. Dan Brown, reported raising $15,600, with $14,017 in the bank.

As for the Democrats running for the open post, former legislator Pat Contreras raised $43,856 during the quarter, with $108,739 in the bank. Judy Baker, also a former state lawmaker, collected $52,185 and has $118,321 in the bank.

All that money-raising by the various candidates stands in sharp contrast to the lack of fundraising activity by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat who will leave office next January. He has collected $3.05 in donations so far this year. His bank account has dwindled to $148,213.

St. Louis Public Radio reporter Jason Rosenbaum contributed information to this story.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.