By Eli Yokley
Missouri’s U.S. Senate and governor’s races have garnered much of the media coverage, but statewide candidates are facing off in four other contests.
In the race to replace outgoing Secretary of State Robin Carnahan — an office seen as a steppingstone for higher statewide office — Kansas City Democrat Jason Kander is facing Springfield Republican Shane Schoeller. Schoeller, who won a three-way primary in August, has focused much of his campaign on touting his support of a photo identification requirement for voters.
Last week, Schoeller — who previously worked for Sens. John Ashcroft and Christopher “Kit” Bond, then-Rep. Roy Blunt and former Secretary of State Matt Blunt — spent a day on the campaign trail with the secretaries of state from both Iowa and Mississippi, both of whom also campaigned on their support of a voter ID requirement.
“Missouri deserves a secretary of state that will fight to ensure free and fair elections,” Schoeller said at a campaign stop in Jefferson City. “As secretary of state, I will work to pass and implement a common-sense voter ID law that will protect Missouri’s elections from fraud.”
Missouri lawmakers have passed the policy before. In 2006, the Missouri General Assembly passed a photo ID requirement, but that was later overturned by the Missouri Supreme Court. Then this year, with Schoeller and his two Republican primary rivals in the Legislature, there was a real push to get the issue on the November ballot. But the ballot language they passed was ruled unfair by a court, which forced the issue off the ballot.
The mere discussion of a photo identification requirement sparked concern with Carnahan, who issued a statement on Thursday claiming there has been new “confusion for many Missouri voters.”
“In Missouri, ID requirements have not changed from prior elections,” Carnahan said. “Voters can bring one of several acceptable forms of identification to the polls such as a voter ID card, a Missouri student ID, a driver’s license or a current utility bill or bank statement with the voter’s name and address on it.”
Kander, like many Democrats running statewide this year, is portraying himself on the campaign trail as a Missouri moderate, appealing to independent voters who may be drawn out for the presidential and U.S. Senate races. Kander, a two-term state representative who served as an intelligence officer in Iraq following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, opposes the photo ID requirement. He has instead focused his message on the office’s dealings with Missouri businesses.
“The most important issue any statewide officeholder can take on right now is helping to create jobs and grow Missouri businesses,” he said in a statement preceding a statewide tour earlier this month. “As secretary of state, I will turn the office’s Business Services division into a hub to connect small-business owners with existing resources that can help their businesses succeed.”
The secretary of state race is the only Missouri statewide race without an incumbent on the statewide ballot.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is the only statewide incumbent Republican on the ballot this year. Kinder is being challenged by former state Auditor Susan Montee, who re-emerged from a loss two years ago to Tom Schweich.
On the campaign trail, Kinder is critical of Montee for her early support of President Barack Obama. She gave the maximum contribution to his campaign, and prompted him on throughout the state. Kinder, who has strongly opposed the federal health care law, touts his opposition to Obama as their chief difference.
Both candidates tout themselves as “fiscal conservatives,” with Kinder pledging efforts to cut back on his office’s budget. Montee says her experience as state auditor gives her a perspective on the operations of state government during tough economic times.
Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat since 2007, is also up for re-election. He is being challenged by St. Louis attorney Ed Martin. Koster, a former Republican state senator, focuses on his previous service as Cass County prosecutor. Martin, who has been a vocal Republican activist, is doing his best to tie Koster directly to Obama, accusing him in a series of billboards and campaign advertisements of being “Obama’s Lawyer.” Koster, in turn, criticized Martin’s lack of experience with criminal cases.
State Treasurer Clint Zweifel, a Democrat, is the final down-ballot Democrat up for re-election. He is being challenged by State Rep. Cole McNary, a St. Louis Republican.