Four Missouri down-ballot races offer choices in background, qualifications, approach

The Star’s editorial

Treasurer: Eric Schmitt, Republican
Treasurer: Eric Schmitt, Republican

Lieutenant Governor

This contest offers a choice between a lawyer who is part of one of Missouri’s most successful political families, and a farmer and businessman who has worked his way up from county sheriff to state senator.

Russ Carnahan, Democrat, is the son of the late Gov. Mel Carnahan and former U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan. Russ Carnahan served two terms in the Missouri House of Representatives and eight years in Congress before losing his St. Louis-area seat to redistricting in 2012.

Mike Parson, Republican, served three terms as Polk County sheriff, six years as a state representative and was re-elected to the state Senate in 2014.

In Congress, Carnahan was an active member of the Center Aisle Caucus, established to promote bipartisan civility. He pushed for transportation funding, improvements to veterans health care and renewable energy legislation.

Carnahan says he is prepared to focus on increasing tourism and on economic development, including helping to build a broad coalition to support increased funding for state roads and bridges, as well as expanding broadband access to underserved areas of the state.

Parson, who takes pride in his conservative credentials, has focused on agricultural and law enforcement issues in Jefferson City and gained praise when he railed against the deplorable savagery of in-state politics after the suicide of State Auditor Tom Schweich. Parson says he would promote agricultural interests, protect Second Amendment rights, support anti-abortion legislation and eliminate wasteful spending.

Either man could serve in this office, whose most important role is being ready to take over as governor if there is a vacancy. But we prefer Carnahan’s focus on goals that are within the customary scope of the office.

Also on the ballot is Steven Hedrick, Libertarian.

Secretary of State

This contest features the son of one of Missouri’s most successful politicians and a television broadcaster for four decades whose father and brother served on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

Jay Ashcroft, Republican, is the son of John Ashcroft, who served as state auditor, attorney general, governor and U.S. senator before being named U.S. attorney general. Jay Ashcroft is an engineer, attorney and former college professor.

Robin Smith, Democrat, worked as a television reporter and news anchor in St. Louis. A registered real estate broker, she has served on civic and community organizations and has an advanced degree in international business.

Ashcroft says he would repair the working relationship between the secretary of state’s office and local election boards and county clerks who oversee local elections. As an attorney, he has handled election cases. He has established a 10-member bipartisan election advisory committee of county clerks whose members have more than 100 years of election experience to help ensure the election process works smoothly.

The secretary of state is responsible for writing summaries of ballot issues — summaries that are all most voters see when they consider voting for or against those issues. Ashcroft notes that the last two officeholders have written summaries that courts have thrown out as insufficient or misleading. He proposes creating an advisory panel of nonpartisan teachers and professional writers who could evaluate if the office’s proposed summaries truly capture the intent and content of initiatives.

Smith says her background as an impartial journalist would equip her to take an even-handed approach to all aspects of the office. She also says her business degree would help her manage the business aspects of the secretary of state’s office.

Ashcroft has a better background and the experience to run this important office, and he has demonstrated more proactive thinking in ways to improve the way the office operates.

Also on the ballot is Chris Morrill, Libertarian.


The two major candidates for treasurer have different ideas of what the proper role should be for the chief financial officer of a $28 billion budget.

Judy Baker, Democrat, was elected to two terms as a member of the Missouri House of Representatives and has lost races for Congress and lieutenant governor. She worked as a manager in the health care industry and served as a regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration.

State Sen. Eric Schmitt, Republican, is an attorney who has worked effectively with members of both parties to enact significant legislation, including measures to require insurance companies to provide coverage for children with autism spectrum disorders, create tax-exempt savings accounts for expenses of people with disabilities, and authorizing the use of CBD oil extract from cannabis for doctor-approved treatment of seizures.

He authored a phased-in tax cut for Missourians that carefully avoided the pitfalls that occurred in Kansas, where massive tax cuts were implemented in one swoop without a revenue safety net. In Missouri, the cuts would not be triggered unless overall state revenue increased by $150 million at each stage along the line.

His experience as Economic Development Committee chairman would help him keep Missouri on a sound fiscal course. As treasurer, Schmitt would move to keep more state money invested in Missouri-based banks and businesses. He would permit residents to track state expenditures through a web portal that would bring greater accountability to state government.

Baker says her experience as an economics teacher, as a small-business owner and 25 years as a manager in government and the private sector would help her guide the office in charge of the state’s money management. Her platform includes using the office to teach financial literacy to children and adults, including prisoners preparing for release.

Either of these candidates could do the job, but we believe Schmitt is more focused on the most crucial tasks this stewardship office requires.

Also on the ballot is Sean O’Toole, Libertarian.

Attorney General

This contest between a political newcomer and a political veteran provides one of the sharpest contrasts on the statewide ballot.

Josh Hawley, Republican, is a law professor who in 10 years of law practice has clerked at a federal court of appeals and the U.S. Supreme court. He has specialized in constitutionally important appellate cases, two of which resulted in victories at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Teresa Hensley, Democrat, served 10 years as Cass County prosecutor and has more than 24 years experience as an attorney in Missouri.

Hawley, who calls himself an independent outsider, is intensely conservative. He calls for ethics reforms and public corruption cleanup that he says would start with his office. He would create a public corruption unit to hold public officials accountable for misuse of their office. He pledges to refuse lobbyist gifts for himself and his office, and says he would challenge the General Assembly to ban all gifts from lobbyists.

He would refuse to accept campaign contributions from any entity under investigation by his office.

He pledges strong efforts on consumer protection, from taking on businesses that are fronts for human trafficking to pursuing scams against seniors, students and veterans. He says he would follow best practices in other states where attorneys general have defended their states against federal regulations that harmed farmers and businesses.

Hensley says her experience in prosecuting crimes and advocating for children, seniors and victims of domestic abuse would help her oversee those same directions in the attorney general’s office.

In this race we tip to Hawley, whose willingness to take on corruption in both political parties is much needed in Jefferson City.