Here come the Republicans!
With the 2016 election season looming, the Missouri GOP gathers in Kansas City this weekend with a slew of questions on the table.
Let’s run ‘em down:
1) Will three-term Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder express any interest in a run for governor? Kinder has already said he’s aiming at an historic fourth term in the largely ceremonial lieutenant governor’s slot.
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But insiders also note that with the governor’s race drawing a crowd of candidates, Kinder might be enticed to try for the state’s top job. We’ll be looking for hints this weekend.
2) Will former U.S. Senate candidate John Brunner announce that he’s running for governor?
Brunner, a wealthy St. Louis businessman who lost to Todd Akin in the 2012 U.S. Senate primary, has been hint-hint-hinting at another candidacy. We’ll be watching him closely this weekend, too.
3) How aggressive will Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt be now that he facing a possible challenge from Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander, a former KC lawmaker?
Blunt may opt to go after Kander early and often. This weekend might be the time to start.
4) How aggressive will Blunt be at narrowing the primary field for governor or at least demanding a civil fight over the nomination? With four-term Sen. Kit Bond now retired, the party lacks a leader who could help the party stave off divisive primaries.
Blunt reportedly has tried to play peacemaker. But there’s only so much a freshman senator can do.
5) How will the state party react to a change in leadership? Long-time Missouri GOP insider John Hancock is expected to seize the reins as party chairman from staunch conservative Ed Martin, who opted not to seek another term in the face of the Hancock challenge.
Under Martin, fund-raising lagged. But he also appealed to that activist base of conservatives who vote in presidential caucuses and primaries. Hancock is a more traditional Republican, but he’s also in a position to raise lots of money fast.
The Missouri GOP dominates the Statehouse. But it’s struggled to win statewide. This weekend in KC, we’ll get an idea of just how united, divided, determined this party is.