Dirty politics did score at least one victory on Tuesday: Republican Mike Cierpiot’s deceptive special election campaign for an open Missouri Senate seat was rewarded with a decisive win over Democrat Hillary Shields and independent Jacob Turk. This is why so many campaigns are fought in the gutter. Often, dishonesty works.
“Our common-sense conservative values ultimately prevailed” in the heavily Republican 8th District, said a triumphant Cierpiot, the current majority leader of the Missouri House, who is from Lee’s Summit. That, and a lot of dark money spent in a panic that Turk, who ran as an independent after he wasn’t chosen as the GOP nominee, would split the Republican vote.
We did not endorse anyone in the race and aren’t doing so retroactively now. But no discernibly conservative values were on display in the ads attacking Shields, a 33-year-old paralegal and co-founder of the grassroots group Indivisible Kansas City.
One ad funded by the Missouri Senate Campaign Committee showed Shields shaking her fist from behind a podium while trying to fire up a crowd at a rally. “This is Hillary Shields,” says the ominous-sounding voice-over, “founder of a fringe group of professional protesters propped up by special interests who want complete government control of health care. Far-left, extreme, out of touch and dangerous liberal extremists are wreaking havoc on our communities. Some even called for the president to be assassinated, like Missouri Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal. Most of us were outraged. Most of us wanted her expelled. Hillary Shields refused. Now Hillary wants to join Maria in the Senate to push their dangerous agenda.” A political action committee connected to a nonprofit called Missouri Alliance for Freedom also sponsored an ad claiming Shields never called for the removal of Chappelle-Nadal. But on the contrary, Shields did say she should step down.
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An ad funded by the Cierpiot campaign said Shields’ “radical plan would use our tax dollars to fund scholarships for illegals.” In another spot his campaign funded, the candidate suggested that recent unrest in St. Louis had made Missouri “a national disgrace.” To illustrate his point, the ad used images that were not filmed after the September acquittal of former police officer Jason Stockley, as the viewer would suppose, but after the 2014 grand jury decision not to indict former Ferguson cop Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.
Part of Cierpiot’s prize is that he gets to run again next year for a full four-year term, perhaps against Shields. And if she poses any threat to his re-election, we won’t be surprised to see her reprising her role as the villain in Cierpiot’s ads.