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Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer backs Kurt Schaefer in Missouri 3rd District GOP primary

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) speaks as Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar testifies before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, on Capitol Hill on October 2, 2020, in Washington, DC.
J. Scott Applewhite
Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) speaks as Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar testifies before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, on Capitol Hill on October 2, 2020, in Washington, DC.

The “antics” of “far right wingers” are why Republicans haven’t achieved more in Congress, U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer said during a radio interview Monday where he endorsed former state Sen. Kurt Schaefer to be his replacement in the 3rd Congressional District.

Luetkemeyer, a Republican in office since 2009, praised Schaefer’s work in the Missouri Senate. Schaefer, of Columbia, is one of eight candidates seeking the GOP nomination in a race that also has two Democrats in a primary and a Libertarian Party candidate.

“I am very excited about Kurt picking up the mantle of this office and running with it,” Luetkemeyer said on the Wake Up Mid-Missouri show on Columbia’s 93.9 FM. The 3rd District is an open seat for the first time since it was reshaped during redistricting in 2022. The district that covers all or part of 16 counties, including Boone, Cole, St. Charles and Jefferson, is weighted more toward central Missouri, where Luetkemeyer lives in Miller County, than it was previously.

With the pivot of state Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman to the secretary of state’s race, Schaefer’s top early rival for the nomination is former state Sen. Bob Onder of Lake St. Louis.

Onder and Schaefer both served two terms in the Missouri Senate and both have failed in campaigns for other offices. Onder lost to Luetkemeyer the 2008 GOP primary in the old 9th Congressional District and Schaefer lost to Josh Hawley in the 2016 primary for attorney general. Schaefer won his state Senate seat the same year Luetkemeyer won his seat in Congress.

Other candidates in the Republican primary are Arnie C. AC Arn Dienoff of O’Fallon, a perennial candidate; Chad Bicknell of O’Fallon, who lost a primary to Luetkemeyer in 2018; Kyle Bone of DeSoto, who lost a 2018 primary for a Missouri House seat; Brandon Wilkinson of Fenton, who lost to Luetkemeyer in the 2020 and 2022 GOP primaries; state Rep. Justin Hicks of Lake St. Louis, an attorney and first-term lawmaker; and Bruce A. Bowman, a Jefferson City businessman.

Filing remains open this week for the seat because of Coleman’s late withdrawal. Luetkemeyer said he would issue an official endorsement after filing closes.

In the radio interview, Luetkemeyer said he supports House Speaker Mike Johnson in his battles with the Freedom Caucus and blamed the factional group for a dwindling GOP majority.

“He’s doing what he has to do to lead us out of this mess, part of what is created by the far right of our party,” Luetkemeyer said. “They don’t understand how to govern, they don’t understand how to structure legislation, and even if you allow them to structure legislation they turn around and vote against the very legislation they structured themselves.”

The tactics, including the motion to remove Johnson filed by U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, are designed to get attention, not govern or win elections, Luetkemeyer said.

“That is all this is with Majorie,” Luetkemeyer said. “This is a media moment for her. She gets to be the media star for a couple of weeks here with this motion to vacate the chair.”

Legislative leaders in Missouri have complained that the Freedom Caucus, through its state chapter, has brought its disruptive brand of politics to the General Assembly. Onder left office before the state chapter was formed but he was a key member of what was called the conservative caucus that engaged in similar stall tactics and factional disputes.

In Congress, Luetkemeyer said, mainstream Republicans have been backed into a corner by the Freedom Caucus.

“They don’t understand tactics,” Luetkemeyer said. “They don’t understand the political geometry of how you play these things against each other. They’ve got themselves backed into a corner now that they are ready to hand the House over to the Democrats.”

This story was originally published by The Missouri Independent, part of the States Newsroom.

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy and state legislature as the Deputy Editor at The Missouri Independent.