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First day of Missouri candidate filing yields a few surprises -- and competitive contests

Candidates line up to file for state offices Tuesday in Jefferson City.
Mallory Daily I St. Louis Public Radio
Candidates line up to file for state offices Tuesday in Jefferson City.

While the showdown that may give joy to political junkies is between Attorney General Chris Koster and walking meme Leonard Steinman for Democratic gubernatorial nomination, some serious contests will demand voters' attention this year.

Many of the most potentially competitive races will be in the St. Louis area, a place where a number of state House seats will be open due to term limits.

Here a few notable filings:

1st Senatorial District: Sen. Scott Sifton’s decision to run for re-election took the air out of what could have been one of the most competitive legislative races in the state. A potentially strong Republican opponent – state Rep. Marsha Haefner – bowed out of the contest last year. And former Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, is content with working behind the scenes as Sen. Rob Schaaf’s chief of staff. 

Scott Sifton
Credit Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
Sen. Scott Sifton will not get a free pass to a second term. The Affton Democrat could run against Randy Jotte, a Webster Groves doctor who has run for several other offices.

But Sifton -- a Democrat -- won’t get a free ride, as Webster Groves native Randy Jotte filed to run against the Affton Democrat. Jotte lost close races for state representative and county council, as well as a not-so-close GOP primary against U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner in 2012. But with few other competitive state Senate races throughout Missouri, Jotte could receive enough funding and organizational muscle to make Sifton work for his second term. And Sifton may have been hard at work anyway, since nobody who’s captured the seat since 2004 has prevailed by more than 2 percentage points.

5th Senatorial District: During a recent appearance on the Politically Speaking podcast, Sen. Jamilah Nasheed welcomed the opportunity to face an opponent in her re-election bid. The St. Louis Democrat got her wish when computer programmer Dylan Hassinger jumped into the contest.

Nasheed is clearly no pushover opponent, as she’s defeated such tough candidates as Sharon Tyus, Kim Gardner, Robin Wright-Jones and Jeanette Mott Oxford during her political career. She Tweeted out yesterday that she was looking forward to a “spirited campaign,” a message that featured the hashtag “#BringItOn.”

15th Senatorial District: With Sen. Eric Schmitt departing from the Missouri Senate due to term limits, two Republicans – former Rep. Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, and state Rep. Andrew Koenig, R-Winchester – filed to run for a district that includes parts of central and western St. Louis County.

Stream is coming off a razor-thin loss in the St. Louis County executive’s contest, a race in which he might have gained some name recognition. But Koenig has more money in the bank and recently received a $50,000 donation from TAMKO’s David Humphreys. Since this contest will likely be decided in the GOP primary, don’t be surprised to see lots of TV ads and sharp elbows between the two candidates.

14th House District: Arguably the biggest surprise came from the western side of the state when former University of Missouri football player Martin Rucker II filed to run as a Democrat against incumbent state Rep. Kevin Corlew, R-Kansas City. Rucker spent about four years playing in the NFL before retiring in 2014. 

This isn’t the first time that a Mizzou football player has dabbled in the electoral arena. But Rucker II is hardly a novelty candidate. The Platte County-based House district is reasonably competitive territory. And Rucker II is no political neophyte: His father Martin Rucker was a state representative from St. Joseph for eight years and now serves on the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole.

Corlew, though, is hardly a slouch either: He bounced back in a big way in 2014 after losing a hard-fought contest in 2012 to state Rep. Jon Carpenter, D-Kansas City. And that is why the Rucker-Corlew match-up may have a clash-of-the-titans feel to it.

73rd District: It’s safe to say that Rep. Courtney Curtis is facing a tougher electoral bid this cycle than 2014.
The Ferguson Democrat was then unopposed for re-election.  

State Rep. Courtney Curtis is no fan of Senate Bill 5, a municipal court overhaul.
Credit Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
State Rep. Courtney Curtis will face three Democratic opponents in his bid for a third term in the Missouri House.

Curtis drew three Democratic opponents in a district that includes a slice of north St. Louis County. That includes former state Rep. Eileen McGeoghegan, D-St. Ann, Ferguson resident Lee Smith and Hazelwood resident Daniel Wibracht.

(Smith ran last year for Ferguson City Council. He lost to Wesley Bell for the Ward 3 seat.)

The opposition is not exactly surprising. Curtis has been fiercely critical of labor unions for not being inclusive enough for African Americans, and even filed a bill to impose “right to work” on the construction trades. But Curtis has prevailed in a contested election before in 2012, when he defeated Doug Clemens by a fairly comfortable margin.

76th, 77th, 78th and 80th  Districts: In 2014, state Rep. Joshua Peters emerged victorious in a spirited and at-times ugly battle against Chris Carter Sr. In the process, the St. Louis Democrat became only the second person since Tom Villa to defeat a member of the Carter family in an election. This year, the St. Louis Democrat will square off against Rachel Johns in the Democratic primary. 

State Rep. Joshua Peters, D-St. Louis, says there was a lack of cohesiveness among elected officials after Michael Brown's death.
Credit Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
State Rep. Joshua Peters, D-St. Louis, will face another challenge in the Democratic primary this cycle. He's squaring off against Rachel Johns.

With the aforementioned state Rep. Kim Gardner vacating the 77th state House seat to run for St. Louis circuit attorney, three candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination: Steve Roberts Jr., Jesse Todd and John-Collins Muhammad. Roberts is an attorney and the son of developer Steve Roberts. Todd is the 18th Ward’s Democratic committeeman. Muhammad previously served as an administrator in Uplands Park.

Meanwhile in the 78th District, state Rep. Penny Hubbard, D-St. Louis, will square off against Bruce Franks. Franks is an anti-violence activist who also gained notoriety as a battle rapper known as “Ooops.” He was one of several candidates denied access to the Missouri Democratic Party’s VAN database.

And as expected, several candidates – Ben Murray, Peter Merideth and Robert Stelzer – have filed as Democrats in the contest to succeed state Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis in the 80th District. 

101st House District: It’s only been a week since state Rep. Don Gosen resigned from office, but four Republicans have already lined up to take the Ballwin’s Republican’s place representing the GOP-leaning 101st District. Two of the candidates – Joy Kreiger and Anne Gassel – hail from Ellisville, while Bruce DeGroot and Noreen McCann are from Chesterfield.

Rep. Don Gosen, R-Ballwin, resigned suddenly from the Missouri House on Wednesday.
Credit Tim Bommel I House Communications
Four Republicans filed to run for former state Rep. Don Gosen's seat.

Kreiger is executive director of the St. Louis Chapter of the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, while Gassel is an activist against Common Core standards for K-12 education. DeGroot is an attorney and a member of the Chesterfield City Council. McCann worked for Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum.

McCann already has endorsements from some notable conservatives, including Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, former Sens. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, and John Lamping, R-Ladue, and Eagle Forum head honcho Ed Martin.

Gosen's seat is one of a handful of GOP-leaning House districts in St. Louis County that will feature open races this cycle. 

6th District County Council: After Steve Stenger became county executive, Democratic committeepeople selected restaurateur Kevin O’Leary to run in a special election. O’Leary easily prevailed last year against Republican Tony Pousosa, but he will now face a challenge in the Democratic primary if he wants to serve for another four years. 

Councilman Kevin O'Leary, D-Oakville, was the key swing vote that allowed the new version of O'Mara's bill to pass.
Credit Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Councilman Kevin O'Leary, D-Oakville, could face competition for the 6th District seat from former state Rep. Patricia Yaeger, D-St. Louis County.

Former state Rep. Patricia Yaeger, D-St. Louis County, filed to run for the county council seat that includes most of south St. Louis County.

Yaeger served in the Missouri House for eight years before leaving due to term limits. She worked for nearly two decades as a night manager at Schnucks.

As of yesterday, O’Leary had not filed for re-election, nor has any Republican signed up to run. The 6th District is the only seat up for grabs this year that could be won by the GOP. So far Councilmen Sam Page, D-Creve Coeur, has a primary challenge from Sam Goodman and St. Ann Councilwoman Amy Poelker filed for the seat as a Republican. Mike O'Mara, D-Florissant, has no opponent yet.

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