Missouri's primary ballot grows as 21 file for U.S. Senate election

By Kevin McDermott and Jack Suntrup |

Twenty-one candidates from four parties will officially compete in Missouri’s U.S. Senate primary elections this year.

Candidate filing for the state’s primaries closed at 5 p.m. Tuesday, finalizing the parties’ final rosters for legislative, congressional, county and other political contests — and acting as the starting gun for what is likely to be a raucous campaign season.

Voters in each party will choose nominees in the Aug. 7 primaries, with winners facing off in the Nov. 6 general election. Among the Senate hopefuls are 11 Republicans, seven Democrats, two Green Party candidates and one Libertarian all seeking their parties’ nods for the state’s nationally watched Senate race.

Incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is seeking her third term. She faces no apparent threats from the six relatively unknown fellow Democrats challenging her for the party’s nomination. But come November, she is considered one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats in the country. She has already spent months stumping around rural regions where she will have the most trouble, seeking to get a foothold there.

Leading the Republican pack in money and endorsements is Josh Hawley, currently state attorney general. He has the backing of a Republican president who won Missouri in 2016 by almost 20 percentage points — but he also has had problems garnering enthusiasm for his campaign among base voters.

Hawley faces 10 GOP primary opponents, including former Libertarian presidential candidate Austin Petersen, whose fervent followers have been lighting up social media for months; and sideshow candidate Courtland Sykes, whose anti-feminist rantings on social media have garnered national attention if not support.

Among the marquee primary races closer to home is the Democratic contest for St. Louis County executive. Incumbent Steve Stenger will face two challengers in the Democratic primary: Mark Mantovani, a lawyer and businessman from Ladue, and Bill Ray, a real estate agent from University City.

Stenger’s campaign has so far painted him as an alternative to President Donald Trump’s “racist hate.” An ad from Mantovani has taken some clear but unnamed jabs at Stenger by claiming county government has been “cheapened by insider deals.” On the Republican side, Paul Berry III, from Maryland Heights, and Daniel Sampson, from unincorporated south St. Louis County, have filed to run.

In U.S. House races, long-time Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, faces three in-party challengers, including ordained minister and activist Cori Bush. Clay enjoys a massive financial advantage in a party primary that is in effect the final election in the Democrat-controlled district.

It may be a different story in the neighboring district of Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin. She probably faces no danger from her little-known GOP primary opponent, but a potential general election challenge looms from Cort VanOstran, a lawyer from Clayton and one of five Democrats seeking the nomination.

The only statewide office in Jefferson City up for grabs this year is state auditor. The incumbent, Democrat Nicole Galloway, was appointed to the post in 2015 by then-Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, in the aftermath of then-Auditor Tom Schweich’s suicide in February of that year. No other Democrat has filed to run against Galloway.

In November, she will face whoever emerges from a four-way GOP race involving term-limited state Rep. Paul Curtman of Pacific; David Wasinger, a lawyer from St. Louis County; Kevin M. Roach, an accountant from Chesterfield; and Saundra McDowell, a lawyer from Jefferson City.

Contested state Senate primaries include a Democratic fight in the St. Louis-based 4th District, which takes in the western half of St. Louis as well as parts of the mid-St. Louis County suburbs. Incumbent Sen. Jacob Hummel of south St. Louis faces term-limited state Rep. Karla May, whose House district includes a slice of the city surrounding Forest Park.

Nearby, in the 14th District, three Democrats are looking to replace term-limited state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, in the district, which stretches from Clayton west to the Missouri River. Democratic state Rep. Joe Adams of University City, former state Rep. Sharon Pace of Northwoods and Brian Williams of University City, a former staffer for Clay, the congressman, will compete in the heavily Democratic district.

Farther south, in the northern Jefferson County-based 22nd District, Democrats Robert Butler of Barnhart and Edward Thurman of High Ridge will face each other for the Democratic nomination. Whoever wins is likely to face incumbent state Sen. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, who flipped the previously Democratic seat in 2014 and has voted against Republican legislation such as “right to work.”

Missouri House primaries of note include the 86th District, where Chappelle-Nadal is looking to return to Jefferson City next year, but as a member of the lower chamber. She will face three other contenders in the Democratic primary for the University City-based seat: Farrakhan Shegog, Gloria (Glo) Nickerson and Bobby Shields.

Shields filed his candidacy on Tuesday, the final possible day, after the sudden withdrawal of the previous candidate, E.G. Shields Jr., who is Bobby Shields’ brother. E.G. Shields said in a phone interview that he withdrew from the race to “focus on the ministry” he runs, the Mount Beulah Missionary Baptist Church in Hanley Hills.