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Sinquefield Sets Record With $1 Million Donation To Potential 2016 Candidate

Rex Sinquefield
Courtesy of Rex Sinquefield's website

(Updated 2:50 p.m. Tues., Dec . 9)

Wealthy financier Rex Sinquefield appears to have made his choice for Missouri’s next lieutenant governor:  Bev Randles, chairman of the Missouri Club for Growth.

Sinquefield is backing up his support with a $1 million check into Randles’ newly created exploratory committee, set up Monday. Randles says she will spend months talking to fellow Republicans to decide whether she has adequate support for a 2016 campaign.

Sinquefield’s check appears to be the largest single donation to a candidate in Missouri history.  The check was taken to the Missouri Ethics Commission when Randles' paperwork was filed, and should be on its web site within 48 hours, her spokesman said.

Randles, a Kansas City lawyer, said in an interview, “Rex is one donor. He represents one vote. He is not going to be the only person who contributes during this exploratory phase.”

But Sinquefield's huge check could discourage other candidates in either major party from running for the post. His support for Randles may send a message to incumbent Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican serving a third term.

Kinder has yet to disclose his 2016 plans, but hinted in a statement sent late Monday that he might consider running for a fourth term.

Sinquefield also is making his choices for other statewide offices on the 2016 ballot.  He already is  bankrolling former House Speaker Catherine Hanaway’s GOP bid for governor.

As of last week, Sinquefield had given $860,000 to Hanaway’s campaign, most of it in a $750,000 donation on Oct. 15.  His support is the bulk of the money she has raised so far, and has touched off criticism from state Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican who also is expected to run for governor

Sinquefield also has given a single check for $250,000 to state Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, who received the money about the same time that he officially announced his 2016 bid for Missouri state treasurer.

Democrats resurrect call for donation limits

Sinquefield’s latest largesse comes as some critics – notably U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. -- are becoming more public with their call to restore some sort of state donation limits.

McCaskill has been outspoken for months about her concern that Sinquefield – or rather, his money -- is becoming too powerful a factor in Missouri politics.

In a statement Monday about his $1 million donation to Randles, McCaskill said, "My hope is that Rex Sinquefield becomes a name that's well-known to Missouri voters - because he is buying Missouri officeholders. I don't think folks are proud of the fact that ours is the only state with no limits whatsoever on political contributions and gifts. They certainly should not sit still for this St. Louis billionaire attempting to put elected officials on his payroll."

Over the weekend, USA Today reported that the senator is working with other Democrats to put a measure on the 2016 ballot to resurrect campaign donation limits, which were eliminated by the General Assembly and then-Gov. Matt Blunt in 2008.

Many top state Democrats, including Gov. Jay Nixon, have for years been promising an initiative-petition effort to put donation limits before voters. However, such talk failed to materialize into any sort of drives for the 2010, 2012 or 2014 ballots.

Another problem for Missouri Democrats is that their announced candidate for governor, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, does not support campaign-donation limits. Koster has, however, called for other changes in campaign finance.

Randles’ bid also noteworthy for other reasons

If she succeeds in becoming the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, Randles would be the first African-American woman to appear on a major-party statewide ballot in Missouri in modern history.

Credit Courtesy of Bev Randles
Bev Randles

It’s been 20 years since either major party in Missouri had an African-American on its statewide ticket.  In 1994, then-U.S. Rep. Alan Wheat of Kansas City was the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate. He lost badly that fall to Republican John Ashcroft, then the former governor.

Randles said she recognizes that her race is “a point that is difficult to ignore.”

If a statewide nominee,  she said, “I would be humbled by’’ her groundbreaking status.  Randles then added, “But also I believe that people in this state will judge me by my accomplishments and the vision I articulate.”

Randles, 42, grew up in Sikeston as one of 12 children. Her father was a farm hand and her mother was a housekeeper.  Randles says her first job was working in cotton fields at the age of 9.

She says her parents’ encouragement, her drive and “acumen for education’’ helped her get ahead. She attended undergraduate college at Murray State in Kentucky and then went to law school at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

Randles has never run for public office before. But she notes that her husband, fellow lawyer Bill Randles, made a serious bid for governor in 2012.

The couple now run a law firm in Kansas City.

Randles says her experience the last two years as chairman of the Missouri chapter of Club for Growth has helped her become acquainted with many Missouri legislators and with state government.

“I’ve been very involved in politics and in public life,” Randles said. “I have have spent a lot of time at the Capitol.’’

Shares many of Sinquefield's views

Many Missourians saw Randles on TV this fall in ads that promoted Amendment 10, which imposes restrictions on the governor's powers in dealing with state budget issues. The amendment passed.

Randles said she first broached Sinquefield a couple months ago about her interest in statewide office. She said she presented her ideas and vision.

“I can’t tell you what Rex’s thought process was,” she continued. “He was obviously impressed with my message and my background and what I wanted to do. I appreciate his support.”

“I share many of the same views that he does,” she acknowledged, citing their common belief in lower taxes and less government.

“Government bureaucracy has gotten way out of hand,” she said. “Government has gone amuck and we need to rein it in.”

Randles says she also plans to use her campaign to focus on education. Sinquefield previously has supported some types of voucher programs and had backed a proposal that would have eliminated teacher tenure and linked teacher performance to student achievement on standardized tests.

Randles called the lack of student achievement in education “the real civil rights issue of our time.”

“I am certainly not opposed to a private school education, or a public school,” she said. “There’s a lot of money going into public schools…The issue is whether it’s being used in the best possible way.”

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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