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Feb. 22, 2024 |  By: Rudi Keller - Missouri Independent

Springfield Sen. Lincoln Hough joins race for Missouri lieutenant governor

lincoln hough

By Rudi Keller - Missouri Independent

After weeks of flirting with the idea, state Sen. Lincoln Hough of Springfield jumped into the Republican Primary for lieutenant governor on Thursday.

Hough, who is serving his second term in the Missouri Senate, joins a field that includes a colleague, state Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder of Scott City, House Speaker Dean Plocher, Franklin County Clerk Tim Baker, St. Louis County businessman Paul Berry III and Philip Cotrone of Mansfield. On the Democratic side, state Rep. Richard Brown of Kansas City and Anastasia Syes of St. Louis have announced candidacies.

In an interview with The Independent, Hough said he will highlight his sponsorship of a 2022 tax cut as a signature accomplishment, as well as the infrastructure funding he’s put into the state budget as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. 

Last year, when Gov. Mike Parson proposed spending $859 million to improve three sections of Interstate 70, Hough bumped it to $2.8 billion to add new lanes across the state and got the rest of the General Assembly to go along with it.

“We’ve made investments in infrastructure and in education, and taken care of our firefighters and our first responders,” Hough said. “I’ve had a good run in the Senate and this is just the next step.”

Hough first won election to the Missouri House in 2010 and won a seat on the Greene County Commission in 2016. Two years later, he won election to the Senate and was re-elected last year with almost 58% of the vote.

Over the past three years, Hough has been one of the more vocal antagonists of the hardcore conservatives that have engaged in factional warfare with the GOP Senate leadership. And in the upcoming primary, some of those fights could become fodder for attack ads.

In 2021, after voters approved Medicaid expansion to add coverage for adults ages 18 to 64, Hough was one of only two Senate Republicans who voted to include money in the budget to pay for it.

The Missouri Supreme Court, a few months later, said the state had no choice but to provide the coverage even if the budget did not include funds specifically earmarked for the expansion group.

At the time, Hough said Missourii should act to get the $1.2 billion in additional support for its traditional Medicaid program only available if it expanded Medicaid eligibility.

“I believe in my heart,” Hough said during the 2021 floor debate, “it is the right thing to do.”

Asked how he would defend himself against attacks that he had voted for Obamacare, Hough said he accepted the will of the voters that approved expansion and the ruling from the state Supreme Court.

“It’s less about expanding Obamacare and it’s more about reimbursing healthcare providers that are providing services to that population,” he said.

In this year’s session, Hough is sponsoring a bill renewing provider taxes that fund a large portion of the state’s Medicaid program. He’s under fire from the Freedom Caucus, the current name of the faction fighting leadership, for seeking to keep off amendments that would bar Planned Parenthood from providing Medicaid services.

Hough said he’s ready for any attacks and will point out that the budgets he’s written as Appropriations Committee chairman have set zero dollars as the amount available for paying Planned Parenthood.

“There are no dollars in fiscal year 2024 being appropriated or being reimbursed to that provider,” Hough said.

The Missouri Supreme Court, in a ruling issued Feb. 14, said the state could not deny payments to Planned Parenthood through an appropriation bill.

Hough enters the race well-stocked with cash. His campaign fund held $405,000 on Dec. 31 after raising $66,275 in the final three months of 2023. A joint fundraising PAC, LincolnPAC, raised $171,800 in the final three months of 2023 and had $367,500 on hand.

His two best-funded rivals are Plocher and Rehder. 

Plocher had $542,008 in the bank in his campaign fund on Dec. 31 and $832,779 in Missouri United, his joint fundraising PAC. Rehder had $267,170 in her campaign fund and $238,434 in Southern Drawl PAC, her joint fundraising committee.

Filing for office opens Tuesday.