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Sen. Bill Eigel makes Missouri GOP gubernatorial primary a three-way contest

Missouri politician Bill Eigel stands at a podium that reads "Bill Eigel for Governor 2024." Behind him is a massive American flag that fills the rest of the frame.
Tristen Rouse
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri state Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, announces his bid for governor on Friday at the St. Charles County Regional Airport in Portage Des Sioux.

Updated at 11:45 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, with Eigel's appearance on Politically Speaking.

Missouri Sen. Bill Eigel jumped into the GOP primary for governor on Friday evening, casting himself as the candidate who could deliver a “bold conservative” agenda for the state.

The Weldon Spring Republican had opened an exploratory committee into running for governor months ago. During a speech at the St. Charles County Regional Airport, Eigel said he was officially entering a race that includes Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft because “both parties have failed us.”

“We've got a whole lot to say on how the swamp has screwed things up in our state,” Eigel said.

Listen to Sen. Bill Eigel's appearance on Politically Speaking
The Weldon Spring Republican talks about his gubernatorial campaign with STLPR's Jason Rosenbaum and Sarah Kellogg.

Eigel is an Air Force veteran who owned a residential and commercial remodeling business. He first ran for office in 2016, narrowly defeating two Republican candidates in a race to represent portions of St. Charles County.

Since entering the legislature, Eigel has joined some other Republicans in being critical of Senate GOP leadership on a host of issues — including the size of the state budget and, in 2022, efforts to redraw Missouri’s congressional districts. Most of his Friday night speech featured blistering condemnation of Republicans who have controlled state government for more than seven years.

“Look, I'm a diehard conservative Republican,” Eigel said. “I happen to believe that one of the biggest problems that we have here in Missouri are all of those so-called Republicans, folks who campaign as Republicans and govern as Democrats.”

In addition to his opposition to abortion rights and allowing transgender youth to obtain puberty blockers or hormone therapy, Eigel reiterated his support for eliminating the state’s personal property tax — contending that Missourians shouldn’t have to “pay rent on their car.”

Eigel also promised to eliminate the state’s income tax, adding that it would put “money back in your pockets to deal with the out-of-control, Biden-driven inflation.”

“The soft Republicans in Jefferson City are doing everything they can to turn Jefferson City into a carbon copy of Joe Biden's Washington, D.C.,” Eigel said. “Establishment Republicans have embraced the powerful in this day by raising your taxes, spending our tax dollars like drunken sailors, allowing China and other foreign countries to buy Missouri farms — all while staring into the camera and smiling at you as if they were your friend.”

A man in a red "Bill Eigel" shirt and red Kansas City Chiefs hat raises two signs reading "Veterans for Eigel" over his head. He stands among a crowd of other people, raising "Bill Eigel for Governor 2024" signs.
Tristen Rouse
St. Louis Public Radio
Supporters of Missouri state Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, react as he announces his bid for governor on Friday at the St. Charles County Regional Airport in Portage Des Sioux.

Running statewide

Although Eigel and an aligned political action committee have raised enough for him to be considered a credible candidate, he faces opponents in Ashcroft and Kehoe with more name recognition and more experience running for statewide office.

Ashcroft’s campaign did not immediately comment on Eigel’s entry into the race. Kehoe campaign manager Derek Coats said in a statement that the lieutenant governor is the “only candidate for governor with the character, values, and conservative vision to take on the unhinged left and secure Missouri's future.”

“That's why conservatives from every corner of Missouri are investing in our campaign in record amounts while other candidates are focused on writing memos with fake poll numbers and scamming fixed-income seniors out of their hard-earned money using President Trump's name," Coats said.

Coats was referring to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article about fundraising tactics used to raise money for Eigel’s political action committee. In response to accusations that this PAC was tricking donors into thinking they were giving money to Trump, Eigel said on social media that“I’m thankful for every single one of the 30,000 people that have donated to my message.”

Eigel alluded to those who doubt he can beat Ashcroft or Kehoe during his speech, quoting former Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi: “We have set our soul ahead upon a certain goal ahead — and nothing from hell to sky shall ever turn us back.”

“Those Jefferson City RINOs, they've already determined that we could not win this fight,” said Eigel, referring to "Republicans in name only" who he contends don’t adhere to conservative values.

Missouri politician Crystal Quade, with a microphone in front of her.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, addresses the media on May 12, after the last day of the legislative session in Jefferson City. So far, she is the only announced Democratic candidate for governor.

Quade nabs AFL-CIO support

So far, state House Minority Leader Crystal Quade is the only Democrat running for governor. The Springfield lawmaker received the endorsement of the Missouri AFL-CIO on Friday, signaling that many of the state’s organized labor groups are supporting her campaign.

“I’m so excited to have the support of the Missouri AFL-CIO, without whom our way of life would be impossible” Quade said. “Together, we will make sure that all workers are paid fairly and are safe on the job.”

While Quade is the only Democratic candidate running to succeed Gov. Mike Parson, the St. Louis Business Journal reported that Springfield-based businessman Mike Harma is “seriously considering” getting into the contest.

The Republican and Democratic primaries for governor will take place next August.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.