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Government, Politics & Issues

Candidates For These Powerful Missouri Offices Struggle To Get Attention This Election

Voters cue up outside the gym at Chapel Lakes Elementary School to vote in primary elections in August. Candidates in Missouri's down-ballot races are concerned voters aren't paying enough attention to those contests with the presidential election garnering so much interest.
Carlos Moreno
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KCUR
Voters cue up outside the gym at Chapel Lakes Elementary School to vote in primary elections in August. Candidates in Missouri's down-ballot races are concerned voters aren't paying enough attention to those contests with the presidential election garnering so much interest.

Key races for Missouri attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer are underway but Republican incumbents and especially their Democratic challengers may have trouble capturing voters’ attention for these down ballot races.

“Given the importance and attention on the Presidential election, I can’t imagine that any candidates below governor are going to get much attention,” said Elizabeth Vonnahme, associate professor of political science at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“Incumbents are favored no matter what, and when the public is paying less attention they have an even greater advantage.”

Republicans hold every Missouri statewide office except auditor, where the current office holder, Nicole Galloway, is challenging Mike Parson for governor.

Democrats are fielding serious candidates for attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer but they face an uphill battle, agreed Peverill Squire, political science professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

“I think one of the problems that the Democrats running for statewide office face this year is that everything in terms of media is focused on the presidential campaign,” Squire said, adding that the incumbents don’t have any big scandals or controversies to confront.

“For the Democrats running statewide,” he said, “their prospects hinge entirely on a big turnout in St. Louis and Kansas City. It’s all about turnout for the Democrats to be competitive statewide.”

Still, both incumbents and challengers are staking out clear and contrasting positions on crucial issues that Missouri residents should consider before voting. Those issues include everything from voting rights, to law and order, to health care, to a coronavirus economic recovery plan.

Here are the candidates at a glance:

Attorney General

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Name: Eric Schmitt, Republican

Experience: Schmitt has been attorney general since January 2019. He previously was elected Missouri state treasurer and took office in January 2017. Gov. Parson then appointed Schmitt to be attorney general after Josh Hawley was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2018. Before he became state treasurer, Schmitt served two terms in the Missouri state senate, representing part of St. Louis County.

Website: schmittformissouri.com.

Issues: Schmitt says his priorities are prosecuting violent criminals and making communities safer, tackling the opioid crisis and eliminating the backlog of untested sexual assault evidence kits. Schmitt is also one of 18 state attorneys general trying to overturn the Affordable Care Act (the federal health care law) in court. That issue is suddenly front and center with the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the possibility that a high court conservative majority could overturn the ACA.

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Name: Rich Finneran, Democrat

Experience: Finneran, of St. Louis, served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in St. Louis from 2010 to 2017, where he handled some of the largest financial fraud cases ever prosecuted in the Eastern District of Missouri. He is now in private practice and teaches law where he attended law school, Washington University.

Website: https://www.richfinneran.com/

Issues: Finneran believes the attorney general’s office has become too geared toward serving partisan political objectives and says he would be a voice for all Missourians. He says he would advocate for crime victims, protect Medicaid expansion in the courts, and end the Republican crusade against the Affordable Care Act.

Other candidates: Libertarian Kevin Babcock.

Secretary of State

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Name: Jay Ashcroft, Republican

Experience: Ashcroft has served one term as Missouri’s secretary of state. He began his professional life as an engineer before he became a lawyer in St. Louis County. He is the son of former Missouri Governor and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. He ran for the Missouri Senate in 2014, losing to Democrat Jill Schupp in a Democratic-leaning district.

Website: ashcroftformissouri.com

Issues: Ashcroft does not support expanded mail-in ballot provisions after 2020. He supports voter identification requirements in Missouri but says he wants every eligible voter to be able to cast a ballot. If re-elected, he said he will work to ensure ballot language is fair, to protect election security and accuracy, and to prevent voter fraud. He also wants to promote small businesses by reducing regulations and cutting government fees.

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Name: Yinka Faleti, Democrat

Experience: Faleti was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and came to the U.S. with his family when he was 7. He went to West Point, served two tours in Kuwait, and became a lawyer. He stepped down from his most recent position as director of “Forward Through Ferguson,” a non-profit working on racial justice, to campaign for office. If elected, he would be the first Black man elected to statewide office in Missouri.

Website: yinkafaleti.com

Issues: Faleti supports automatic voter registration and no-excuse absentee and mail-in voting. He supports Medicaid expansion and says he would zealously protect citizen engagement in the ballot initiative process. He also supports reducing regulations that hinder small business and entrepreneurism.

Other candidates: Libertarian Carl Herman Freese; Green Party candidate Paul Lehmann; and Constitution Party candidate Paul Venable.

Treasurer

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Name: Scott Fitzpatrick, Republican

Experience: Fitzpatrick, of Cassville, has served as Missouri state treasurer since January 2019. Gov. Parson appointed him to that role after Schmitt was appointed attorney general. Previously, Fitzpatrick served six years in the Missouri House, representing Barry, Lawrence and Stone counties. He is also a small business owner.

Website: www.scottfitzpatrick.com

Issues: Fitzpatrick says that as treasurer, he has returned over $45 million in unclaimed property to Missouri taxpayers. He says his priorities include preserving Missouri’s financial health, improving financial literacy, and promoting entrepreneurship and job growth.

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Name: Vicki Lorenz Englund, Democrat

Experience: Englund, of Sunset Hills, served two terms in the Missouri House of Representatives, from 2009 to 2011 and from 2013 to 2015. She has also served on the Lindbergh school board in St. Louis County. She consults for the clean energy industry and has an online retail business.

Website: www.vickienglund.com

Issues: Englund says her priorities include helping to target small business loans to areas hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, expanding the 529 College Savings Plan, and investing in companies that reflect her commitment to sustainability and sound corporate governance.

Other candidates: Libertarian Nicholas Kasoff; Green Party candidate Joseph Civettini.
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