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Feb. 19, 2024 |  By: Rudi Keller - Missouri Independent

Central Missouri Republican joins race for 3rd District congressional seat

taylor burks

By Rudi Keller - Missouri Independent

A Boone County Republican said Monday he will emphasize national security experience, avoiding intra-party fights and that he actually lives in the district he wants to represent in a GOP primary for the 3rd Congressional District.

Taylor Burks of Hartsburg, a former Boone County clerk, became the third Republican seeking the nomination to replace U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer of St. Elizabeth, who in January announced his retirement after eight terms in the House.

State Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman of Arnold and former state Sen. Bob Onder of Lake St. Louis have already announced they are running. Former state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Columbia Republican, is known to be considering the race.

Neither Coleman nor Onder live in the 3rd District. Members of Congress only have to live in the state they represent, not the district.

“It’s a fact that everybody who’s seriously looking at this race, has spent their career in Jefferson City, and I think it’s time that we elect somebody who has real world experience,” Burks said.

In a news release announcing his bid, Burks said Congress is hamstrung by politicians serving special interests instead of their constituents.

“I believe in the promise of the USA, and that our best days are ahead,” Burks said. “We face many challenges, but only if we move past the career politicians and the swamp that are sucking the soul of America.”

Burks’ family has been farming in Missouri for five generations, he said, and he grew up on his grandparents’ cattle farm. Burks is an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and was stationed in Kuwait supporting military logistics during the Iraq War. He was appointed Boone County Clerk in 2017 but lost the post in the November 2018 election.

“I would be the first veteran to represent Missouri in Congress in 16 years, and I think that that’s a huge, huge factor when we’re looking at the state of the world today,” Burks said.

The district includes all or part of 16 counties, running from the Lake of the Ozarks to the Mississippi River. Almost half the population is in eastern and northern St. Charles County, the southern half of Boone County and the western half of Jefferson County.

Burks jumped into the 4th District race in 2021, after then-U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler announced a bid for Senate but before districts had been redrawn following the 2020 census. Boone County was split by state lawmakers, with the southern portion going into the 3rd District and the northern half in the 4th District.

Burks moved his residence to family property in north Boone County but wound up with only 10.1% of the vote.

With both of the announced candidates from the eastern side of the state, Burks said in an interview with The Independent that it is important for a central Missouri candidate to be in the race. He said he discussed the race with other prominent central Missouri Republicans, including Schaefer, before getting into the race.

Because none have announced, Burks said, he jumped in.

He was willing to step aside if another mid-Missouri candidate had come forward, he said.

“I also look at it that we have two major candidates who don’t live in the district and are carpetbagging into the third and are from the St. Louis area,” Burks said. “We’re a month and a half behind the other candidates.”

So far, 42 other U.S. House members have joined Luetkemeyer in saying they will not seek new terms. Of that number, 18 are seeking other offices and 25 are retiring, including three Republican committee chairmen who announced last week they are leaving.

In his two years as clerk, Burks said he had to work with Democrats to keep the office running smoothly. 

This year, the House GOP majority has been wracked by factional fights, highlighted by the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Onder, when he was in the Senate, was one of the key players in factional disputes with GOP leaders. 

“Sending the insanity from Jefferson City to Washington D.C.,” Burks said, “doesn’t improve the dysfunction that we do see in the Republican Conference.”