Democratic Sen. Karla May promises to bring fight to Hawley
Updated at 5:45 p.m. on Tuesday
State Sen. Karla May told reporters and supporters on Tuesday that she’s ready to bring a fighting spirit to the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, contending she’s the best candidate to take on U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley.
“I see a state and a nation that has been torn apart — sometimes in small ways,” May said. “Little threads, plucked, pulled and ripped from their place in an effort to unravel the very fabric of this great nation. Banning books, whitewashing history, and the codification of laws that enshrined fear and hate into our society.”
During a press conference in front of the Civil Courts Building in St. Louis, May promised to be a strong voice in the U.S. Senate to place restrictions on guns, pointing to how firearms deaths affect scores of children. She also said she would help provide healing to a country that she says has been ravaged by division.
She also condemned the U.S. Supreme Court that she was “stolen from the people,” adding that a conservative majority is “handing down decisions that turn back the clock, take away our rights and trample on the very freedoms they had sworn to uphold.”
And May excoriated Hawley, alluding to how he was the first GOP senator to object to Joe Biden’s 2020 win in Pennsylvania.
“And sometimes they tear us apart in sudden, horrible acts of violence, like the insurrection on our nation's capitol on January 6 2021,” May said. “On that day, traitors tried to overthrow our government. Violent, racist, un-American traitors who stormed the halls of Congress with the single goal of destroying our democracy and starting a second Civil War.”
May has represented portions of St. Louis and St. Louis County in the Missouri Senate since 2019. Before that, she served for eight years in the Missouri House.
Since joining the Senate, May has played a role in crafting legislation dealing with criminal justice issues. She’s also a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is partly responsible for crafting Missouri’s budget.
May, the daughter of former St. Louis Alderwoman Perrie May, garnered a reputation as a sharp political operator. Lew Moye of the St. Louis Chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists noted that May was working in political campaigns before she turned 10.
“She was, like, some say born for this,” Moye said.” Because she grew up she grew up with the Coalition of Black Trade. Unionists. And we're a very activist group and we're very proud of her.
Since falling short for her initial bids for the Missouri House, May has dispatched strong Democratic contenders in primaries. That includes her 2018 state Senate win where she defeated incumbent Sen. Jake Hummel.
May noted that she’s been underestimated before — and those who dismiss her campaign do so at their own peril.
“I am a strong candidate in my history and my history in this state and my record speaks for itself,” May said.
A crowded field
Kunce, who is making his second run for the Senate, already has raised several million dollars and received the backing of some influential Black political figures — including former Congressman Bill Clay and St. Louis County Councilwoman Rita Days, D-Bel Nor.
“The State Senator and I spoke on the phone ahead of the announcement, and we had a great conversation," Kunce said in a statement. "I’m happy to welcome her to the race and look forward to seeing her on the trail.”
Kunce also received the backing of the Missouri AFL-CIO, as well as a number of labor unions. But May, a longtime member of the Communications Workers of America, could also receive some support from some organized labor groups as well.
“Karla is absolutely the most experienced person in the race, having been successful in Jefferson City for over a decade,” said Recorder of Deeds Michael Butler. “She’s just a fighter. She is a big fighter. And as you see, she has a message that can resonate with people all across the state.”
Bell, who has served as St. Louis County prosecutor since 2019, is also banking on receiving African-American support in his Senate bid. He recently rolled out endorsements from a number of north St. Louis County leaders, including Ferguson Mayor Ella Jones. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.
"Karla May and I spoke about this prior to her announcement," Bell said in a statement. "I know her, I consider her a friend, hugged her and wished her well. Everyone has a right to run. This is the democratic process and ultimately voters will decide.”
May added that she is not concerned that her entry into the race will split the Black vote and help Kunce win. She pointed to her 2012 state legislative contest where she emerged victorious in a Democratic primary over a white candidate and another Black candidate.
“This is about a person who's able to go to Washington, D.C., and work with the individuals there to get the job done,” May said. “This is not about Republican or Democrat. This is about what is right and what's wrong. And we must heal this nation. And we need people in that environment that have the ability to influence that healing.”
State Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, D-St. Louis, said that May has proven in her elections that can win the support of white and Black voters. She also said that it may be beneficial for there to be a competitive Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate.
“This also gives us an opportunity to do voter engagement and get people outside to rally them around a candidate,” Bosley said. “So I don't think of it as a problem. If anything, I think of it as a solution for us to get higher voter turnout and get more people engaged in the process.”
While Missouri has become more Republican in recent years, the winner of the primary could be beneficiary of a torrent of Democratic donations — especially from people around the country who dislike Hawley. Hawley himself has said he expects his re-election bid to be expensive.