© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
We will broadcast special coverage of both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, starting with the RNC tonight at 8.

Former state Sen. Kurt Schaefer eyeing comeback in Missouri’s 3rd Congressional District race

State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, who is running for state attorney general, speaks during the Pachyderm Attorney General Forum on Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Days.
Carolina Hidalgo
St. Louis Public Radio
Former state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, shown in 2016, is running for Missouri's 3rd Congressional District.

Roughly 16 years ago, Kurt Schaefer and Blaine Luetkemeyer were two bright spots in an otherwise dismal election cycle for Missouri Republicans — prevailing in at times brutal races for the Missouri Senate and Congress, respectively.

After a hiatus from electoral office, Schaefer is now attempting to succeed Luetkemeyer as Missouri’s 3rd Congressional District representative. The Columbia-based attorney says he’s developed a track record of accomplishment that sets him apart from other candidates in the GOP field.

“I'm tired of people wanting to get elected to be nothing but political influencers online, and not doing the job that actually needs to be done,” Schaefer said. “I think that's why we see the problems we've got in Washington.”

Schaefer served for eight years as a senator representing a Boone County-based district. For six of those years he was chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, which plays a major role in crafting the state’s budget.

He ran for attorney general in 2016, losing decisively in the GOP primary to Josh Hawley — who went on to win the general election. The campaign between Hawley and Schaefer was contentious, with each candidate running negative ads against each other.

If Schaefer wins the Aug. 6 primary, he would be emulating Luetkemeyer — who made an electoral comeback himself in 2008 after losing a GOP primary for treasurer. While Luetkemeyer hasn’t endorsed anyone in the race to succeed him, Schaefer said he has some commonalities with the St. Elizabeth Republican.

“He was able to establish a lot of things not just for the 3rd Congressional District, but for farmers and ranchers and other businesses in Missouri,” Schaefer said. “And to lose him, we have to have somebody who has the ability to replace him and get those things done. And I think that is a good fit.”

Schaefer said his track record of passing impactful legislation in Jefferson City will allow him to hit the ground running on dealing with some of the country’s major problems, including restructuring the immigration system.

“People want to come from other countries that are not in as good of a position for whatever reason,” Schaefer said. “It doesn't mean that we destroy our economy and kill our kids by saying we need to take everybody who comes from a country that's not as good as the United States. That process has to be restored to where we know who's coming in.”

A crowded field

Schaefer’s campaign received a boost on Thursday when former Boone County Clerk Taylor Burks dropped out of the 3rd District race. He cited the fact that having two candidates from the Mid-Missouri area would make chances of success “nearly impossible.”

Schaefer is likely to face attacks on several fronts. When he ran in 2008, he positioned himself as a moderate Republican on a number of issues in his ultimately successful race against then-state Sen. Chuck Graham. He said his record in the Senate showcases conservative accomplishments, including sponsoring a constitutional amendment that ultimately passed aimed at protecting gun rights.

“My record is as conservative as you can get, and it's a record of accomplishments, not a record of just getting out on social media and talking about how conservative you are,” Schaefer said.

Schaefer was a registered lobbyist for a number of years after leaving the General Assembly. He terminated his registration late last month.

As of Friday morning, there are six other GOP candidates running to succeed Luetkemeyer: state Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold; former state Sen. Bob Onder, R-St. Charles County; O’Fallon resident Arnie Dienoff; Fenton resident Brandon Wilkinson; De Soto resident Kyle Bone and Arnold resident Chad Bicknell.

Coleman and Onder are confident they can win in a crowded GOP primary.

“I'm running for Congress because Missouri is faced with a state of crisis on the national level,” Onder said. “A crisis of illegal aliens invading our southern border. A crisis of overspending and socialistic policies of the Biden administration. A crisis of declining educational attainment, wokeness, and cultural decline. These are all problems that come out of Washington, D.C., and we need to send strong leadership to D.C. so that D.C. will listen to the people of this state and the people of the country.”

Coleman said, “I think that people are looking for somebody who's ready on Day One.”

“They're looking for somebody who's going to push back against Biden's failed policies, who's going to make sure that we're securing our border, addressing the economy and inflation, and somebody who's represented the district,” Coleman said.

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