It’s always a struggle to determine which race should go first in our Friday Trailwatch series. All the campaigns are becoming more aggressive — if you doubt that, I’ll send you a link to my email inbox.
This week was particularly tough. Jason Kander and Roy Blunt are close in most polls, and their debate last Friday showed two understandably cautious candidates. But Eric Greitens and Chris Koster brutalized each other over statements, debates, taxes, the outcome of Friday’s debate.
And spending for TV ads is over the top. Spending on the governor’s race is the highest in the nation, at $27.2 million (that apparently includes the primary). The attorney general race is also the highest — Hawley vs. Schaefer was brutal.
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But our winner for this week’s top spot? The U.S. Senate race! More video, mostly.
To the trail...
☆U.S. SENATE, MISSOURI
Republicans in Branson Friday said they’ve been told Roy Blunt leads Jason Kander by just one or two points. A leading polling firm was in the field this week, gathering numbers. More if we get them.
National ratings groups are moving the race closer to toss-up status. The New York Times says internal polls put Blunt behind in the race.
Stu Rothenberg’s company: “Missouri is replacing Florida as one of the top states to decide control of the Senate. Democrats and Republicans are shifting resources into the Show Me State as some GOP strategists are concerned about the matchup between Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander and GOP Sen. Roy Blunt doesn't bode well for the long-time incumbent.
“The race has tightened to the point that Blunt may not even have a lead anymore.”
Politico: “Kander has been the standout recruit for Senate Democrats this cycle. ...Most recent polls have Kander leading or even with Blunt.”
A softer, gentler Roy Blunt is airing a new ad about his help for the disabled:
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is having none of it.
The partisans launched a fierce argument over which candidate had a worse attendance record. A story in the liberal Daily Kos claimed an analysis of records showed Blunt missed two-thirds of committee hearings during his time in the U.S. House.
Caution: the records are hazy. And as anyone in Washington can attest, committee attendance is often sporadic and not indicative of workload. For a time, Blunt served in the House leadership (that’s an issue, too.)
Blunt’s campaign: “Roy Blunt has a strong, bipartisan track record of legislative success. In contrast, Jason Kander missed an astronomical number of meetings of several committees on which he served in the state legislature and skipped one in five floor votes in his last year as a state legislator.”
The same caveat applies to Kander’s record, of course.
Lindsay Wise of our Washington bureau reports: “In his six years in the Senate, Blunt missed 72 of 1,633 roll call votes, or 4.4 percent. The median percentage of missed votes among current senators is 1.7 percent.”
Politico says House Speaker Paul Ryan will raise money for Blunt.
A new poll shows Chris Koster just three points ahead of Eric Greitens. The same pollster had Koster up 16 points in a poll last week.
No one thinks either poll completely describes the state of the race. A better suggestion: Koster leads, but by five or six points.
We’re told the Republican Governors Association will pour $9 million into the race to help Greitens.
Koster and Greitens engaged in a furious back-and-forth this week over future debates, and Greitens’ tax returns.
But Koster sent a letter to Greitens this week, pulling back from any future debates unless Greitens releases his tax returns. Greitens and Republicans accused Koster of backing out to protect his narrowing lead.
“It’s no surprise that crooked career politician Chris Koster won’t debate,” said Greitens’ campaign manager Austin Chambers.
Democrats returned fire by suggesting Greitens is hiding something in his tax documents. They’ve made a broad argument that Greitens has profited personally from his charity work, and think the tax documents could show lucrative payments for speeches and events.
Republicans accused Koster of backing away from Hillary Clinton in an interview with KMOX radio in St. Louis. Fair game, but remember: We haven’t seen Greitens waving the flag for Donald Trump, either.
Koster’s campaign said Missouri’s roads are crumbling. “Chris Koster has promised to get a funding solution by 2018,” it said. A fuel tax is mentioned most often, and is a difference between the campaigns — in general, Greitens has not supported a fuel tax hike for roads.
☆MISSOURI ATTORNEY GENERAL
Teresa Hensley, the Democrat, has posted an ad. See it here.
Her campaign also criticized GOP opponent Josh Hawley for implying he tries cases in the state. “The truth is, Josh Hawley has never represented a client in the Platte County courthouse or, for that matter, in any Missouri county courthouse,” the campaign said.
The Missouri Republican Party called Hensley a “soft-on-crime career politician.”
(A note to both parties: can we knock off the “career politician” stuff? Nothing was funnier at the Branson debates than to watch Eric Greitens hammer Chris Koster as a career politician, then to watch Sen. Roy Blunt take the stage after the first debate ended. Democrats, of course, have the same problem in the other direction.)
☆U.S. HOUSE, KANSAS 03
Republicans claimed Democrat Jay Sidie didn’t file required documents to serve as an investment adviser. Sidie said he was exempt from the requirement.
Sidie’s campaign points to an ethics investigation request regarding Rep. Kevin Yoder’s significant contributions from people tied to the payday loan industry. And they want to know why Yoder took $5,000 from James Carnes, who faces paying more than $40 million in restitution and penalties for his involvement in an allegedly abusive payday loan buisness.
Records show Carnes has given to Democrats as well as Republicans, including Rep. Emanuel Cleaver and former Rep. Dennis Moore.
Yoder claimed endorsements from the sheriffs in Miami, Johnson, and Wyandotte Counties.
☆AMENDMENT FOUR, MISSOURI
Amendment 4 on your November ballot would prohibit local governments from adding new sales or use taxes to services or other transactions. Here’s the fair ballot language:
“A ‘yes’ vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to prohibit a new state or local sales/use or other similar tax on any service or transaction. This amendment only applies to any service or transaction that was not subject to a sales/use or similar tax as of January 1, 2015.
“A ‘no’ vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution to prohibit such state or local sales/use or other similar tax.”
Supporters of Amendment 4 held a rally in Kansas City this week.
“The answer is not to expand the sales tax to services Missouri families and businesses use every day, from haircuts to car repairs, from professional services to home repairs,” it said. “Amendment 4 provides protection for those who would be most harmed by a new sales tax on services, including senior citizens, the disabled, those on fixed incomes and lower-income families.”
The Missouri Municipal League opposes the amendment. “Placing a sales/use tax expansion prohibition in the Missouri Constitution would not allow this vitally important local revenue source to adjust to new technologies and an ever-shifting economy,” it said.