Missouri Republican activists will signal their first 2016 presidential preferences by participating in a straw poll this weekend during the party’s annual Lincoln Days festivities.
This year, the event has been renamed “Reagan-Lincoln Days’’ in honor of Ronald Reagan, who was president in the 1980s.
The unscientific straw poll is among the activities aimed at energizing the hundreds of party faithful expected to attend the three-day event in Kansas City.
Outgoing state party chairman Ed Martin said there will be at least two presidential straw polls – one among the 68 members of the state GOP committee, and another among the registered Lincoln Days attendees.
The votes presumably will be cast before one potential GOP contender – former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania – takes to the stage at Saturday night’s banquet. Santorum, a social conservative, won Missouri’s nonbinding 2012 Republican presidential primary.
Also scheduled to speak during the weekend is current U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who is on many GOP short lists as a potential vice presidential running mate.
Missouri's already heated Republican contest for governor also might be a straw-poll topic, although Martin said no decision had yet to be made. The two best-known announced Republicans contenders are state Auditor Tom Schweich and former state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway.
The hottest issue during the weekend, however, is likely to be Saturday’s election of a new state party chairman. John Hancock, a former state legislator from St. Louis County and now a GOP consultant, is competing against party activists Nick Myers of Neosho and Eddy Justice of Poplar Bluff.
Myers is the Republican chairman in Newton County, while Justice heads up Republicans in Butler County and in the 8th congressional district. The decision will be up to the state party's 68-member executive committee.
Martin had been expected to seek re-election until a few weeks ago, when he announced that he will be the new president of the Eagle Forum, a nationally known conservative group founded by Phyllis Schlafly.
Martin says he already has started his new job but remains state party chairman as well until the state GOP’s executive committee chooses his successor.