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Top fundraiser in Missouri Senate race last quarter was Democrat Lucas Kunce

Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Lucas Kunce of Kansas City
Missouri Independent
Missouri Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Lucas Kunce has been successful at raising money for his campaign.

While all the attention in the race for Missouri’s open U.S. Senate seat has been focused on the crowded GOP primary, a Democrat quietly out-raised the field last quarter.

Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, 39, reported raising nearly $840,000 during the three months that ended Oct. 1.

That far outpaces his main rivals for the Democratic nomination — former state Sen. Scott Sifton raised $222,000 and businessman Spencer Toder raised $12,000.

He also edged out his potential GOP opponents vying for the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, with Attorney General Eric Schmitt coming closest with $650,000 raised last quarter.

Kunce still trails the Republicans in cash on hand, reporting $670,000 in the bank in his most recent disclosure report compared to $1.6 million for U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler; $1.2 million for Schmitt; $540,000 for U.S. Rep. Billy Long and only $200,000 for former Gov. Eric Greitens.

But Kunce is quick to point out his fundraising haul was built without accepting donations from corporate political action committees.

“In fact,” Kunce said, “I want to abolish corporate PACs altogether.”

That anti-corporate, anti-establishment message is the core of Kunce’s populist campaign. He slams both political parties as too beholden to corporations and Wall Street.

“For a long time, Democrats were the party for working people,” he said. “The Democratic Party became a party that liked consolidation, that took a lot of Wall Street and big tech money and worked for those interests and didn’t do anything to protect Middle America.”

That shift, Kunce says, is why his party has struggled in Missouri.

Democrats once dominated Missouri politics, with the party holding nearly every statewide office as recently as 2016.

But over the last two decades, Missouri has trended more and more toward the GOP. And now, in addition to holding every statewide office but one, Republicans have super majorities in both legislative chambers.

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley unseated Democrat Claire McCaskill by six percentage points in 2018.

Kunce notes that the last time this Senate seat was up for grabs, in 2016, Democrat Jason Kander came within three percentage points of unseating Blunt in a year when Donald Trump won Missouri by 19 points.

Both Kunce and Kander are veterans — Kunce spent 13 years in the Marine Corps, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan — running as political outsiders against what they say is a corrupt system.

But while Kander served three terms the state legislature and one term as Missouri Secretary of State, Kunce has never held public office. He ran for state House in 2006, losing to Republican Mark Bruns.

Starting as a complete political unknown, Kunce said his priority now is hopscotching the state to introduce himself to voters. And he feels his message is catching on.

“The underlying issue I hear from voters, which actually reaches the theme of our campaign, is that we need to fundamentally change who has power in our country,” Kunce said. “Because right now we have these massive corporations and elites who are buying off our politicians and encouraging them to make decisions that work for the people at the top and strip our communities for parts.”

Kunce grew up in Jefferson City and is a graduate of Yale University and the University of Missouri Law School. He currently lives in Independence and works for the American Economic Liberties Project, a think tank that according to its website works to “challenge monopolies’ dominance over markets and society.”

Missouri Independent is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Missouri Independent maintains editorial independence.

Jason Hancock has been writing about Missouri since 2011, most recently as lead political reporter for The Kansas City Star. He has spent nearly two decades covering politics and policy for news organizations across the Midwest, and has a track record of exposing government wrongdoing and holding elected officials accountable.

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