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Rep. Cody Smith enters race for treasurer — setting up showdown with Malek

Representative Cody Smith, R-Carthage, speaks at a press conference after the House finishes the final day of the session at the Missouri State Capitol Building on Friday, May 14, 2021, in Jefferson City. Smith was a critical figure in the decision not to fund Medicaid expansion.
Daniel Shular
Special to St. Louis Public Radio
House Budget Committee chair Cody Smith, shown here in a 2021 press conference, will run for state treasurer next year.

Updated at 12:22 p.m. July 13 with comment from Treasurer Vivek Malek

Missouri Treasurer Vivek Malek will have competition next year as he seeks a full four-year term.

House Budget Chairman Cody Smith said on an episode of Politically Speaking that he will run in the GOP primary for the statewide office. The Carthage Republican said his experience leading the committee that helps craft the state’s budget sets him up well to be treasurer.

“I've worked a lot in fiscal policy and have had some success cutting taxes and eliminating public debt and balancing the state budget,” Smith said. “And I’d like to continue to take that experience and work on fiscal policy from the state treasurer's office.”

Among other things, Smith touted his advocacy of tax cuts and overhauling education policy. He also said he would push for changes to Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, a tax credit program for people who donate to organizations that financially assist students.

“Most frustratingly, it gets restricted by geography,” Smith said. “So, as an example: Children who live in my hometown of Carthage do not qualify because of where they live. But 12 miles away in the city of Joplin, those children do qualify. And I think that all Missourians deserve access to a world class education, regardless of their ZIP code.”

In addition to managing the state’s financial portfolio and helping Missourians get back their unclaimed property, the state treasurer also sits on a number of boards and commissions — including the Missouri Housing Development Commission which allocates tax credits to cultivate low-income housing.

“We're living within our means. And I've been able to accomplish that,” Smith said. “And so those are the things that I think I've done well, and I'd like to take that experience into the treasurer's office.”

Smith will face a formidable challenge in trying to unseat Malek.

The attorney and former member of the Southeast Missouri State University Board of Regents has more than $1 million at his disposal between his campaign account and a political action committee.

Even though Malek is currently serving the remaining two years of this term, due to his later swearing-in date this past year, he will be able to run for two full terms as Treasurer.

“It is an honor to serve as State Treasurer. My office has been working hard for the people of Missouri, including setting a new record in returning millions in unclaimed money and property to its rightful owners. I am a proud fiscal conservative, and I look forward to earning the opportunity from Republican voters next August to be the Republican nominee for State Treasurer,” Malek said in a statement released after Smith’s announcement.

Malek will also have the backing of Gov. Mike Parson, who appointed him to the post after Scott Fitzpatrick was elected as auditor.

“I too have had success with raising money in the past and certainly have a plan of action to run a fully funded, well funded campaign,” Smith said.

Smith's decision to primary Malek means that most of Missouri’s statewide office will have GOP primaries next year. In addition to open races for governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state, Will Scharf is running against Attorney General Andrew Bailey in the GOP primary.

Lucas Johnson, a financial advisor from Franklin County, filed paperwork to run as a Democrat for state treasurer.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.