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Feb. 28, 2024 |  By: Annelise Hanshaw - Missouri Independent

Missouri candidates head to Jefferson City for first day to file for 2024 elections


By Annelise Hanshaw - Missouri Independent

Political candidates who make national headlines — and those who may only be known in their hometown — descended on Jefferson City Tuesday morning for the first day of a month-long window to file to run for office in Missouri.

To run for office, candidates have no choice but to show up in person. Some take advantage of the moment, talking to journalists and sending press releases. Others exit through the building’s back door to avoid questions.

Those making the trek on the first day have a separate entrance into the James C. Kirkpatrick State Information Center, home of the Secretary of State’s office. First, they confirm registration with a political party and pay a fee to run under that party’s banner. 

Then they wait in a line on the building’s third floor.

U.S. Rep. Sam Graves was the first to get through the line Tuesday morning, finishing the process at 8:07 a.m. according to the Secretary of State’s website. A total of 435 candidates filed by 5 p.m.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft greeted candidates upstairs, smiling ear-to-ear while taking their photos as they waited in line and making quips about the political process.

Candidates’ place on the ballot is determined by a number they pull from an acrylic box as part of a lottery system. Those with the lowest numbers are first on the ballot.

A line of people with numbers in the 900s, some of the highest of the day, took a photo together. 

“The Bible says, ‘The first will be last,’” one said.

One filer joked with Ashcroft that, next election, the numbered tickets should be placed in a machine that blows them around the candidate — like the money-blowing machines in some arcades.

“Well, there are some people who don’t like machines in elections,” Ashcroft said with a laugh.

Valentina Gomez, a Republican candidate for Secretary of State who recently came under fire for burning books, has spoken against “voting machines.” She posted on X, formerly Twitter, that “we must blow up the corrupt voting machines” less than a week before filing day.

Gomez is one of four Republican candidates for Secretary of State who filed Tuesday along with three Democrats. Current Missouri lawmakers Denny Hoskins, a Republican state senator; Adam Schwadron, a Republican state representative; and Barbara Phifer, a Democratic state representative are running for Secretary of State.

Sen. Caleb Rowden, a Columbia Republican, has announced he’s running for secretary of state but did not file Tuesday.

Some of Tuesday’s filers brought political consultants and campaign managers. A staffer for Wesley Bell carried a kelly green Hermes Birkin bag with her as she followed Bell around the building.

Others brought loved ones. Gubernatorial candidate Mike Kehoe’s wife, Claudia, donned a kelly green suit to match her husband’s campaign colors.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Darrell Leon McClanahan III, who wore a feathered western hat, brought his children. McClanahan lost a bid for a U.S. Senate seat in 2022, receiving less than 1% of the votes in the primary.

A dozen supporters of U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, who represents Missouri’s First District, followed her around the building and reverberated in agreement as she spoke to reporters.

Democratic Attorney General candidate Elad Gross brought along one of his biggest fans and a campaign sidekick: Liberty Belle, his rescue dog.

Gross held a filing-day tailgate in the parking lot prior to registration opening, with Panera bagels and coffee. His truck says “End puppy mills,” along with campaign visuals.

He told The Independent he believes Liberty Belle came from an abusive breeding situation he would describe as a “puppy mill.” Liberty Belle, who is familiar with the campaign trail, hobbles on three legs with the fourth tucked.

Gross, who has raised almost $115,000 as the only Democrat in the attorney general race, is hoping to face candidates with much larger campaign war chests. Andrew Bailey, the current Attorney General appointed by Gov. Mike Parson, has raised over $2 million between his campaign and associated political action committee. Will Scharf, a former assistant U.S. attorney and an aide to ex-Gov. Eric Greitens, has raised almost $1.2 million. 

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley has $4.9 million on hand for his campaign to keep his seat. Hawley did not attend the first day of filing Tuesday.

His Democratic opponent, Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, filed that morning with nearly $2.2 million in hand for his campaign.

“I don’t care if you’re Democrat or Republican or who you’ve voted for in the past,” Kunce told reporters. “This race is going to make a huge difference, my race in this state. And we need to flip this seat.”

Other no-shows on Tuesday include State Treasurer Vivek Malek, who is facing State Sen. Andrew Koenig and State Rep. Cody Smith among others for his position.