A record number of candidates are poised to slice the Republican vote into historically small pieces next month

Less than a month out from Election Day, all signs still point to a very tight three-way race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in Missouri with former Governor Eric Greitens, U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler, and Attorney General Eric Schmitt in a dead heat.

All three candidates have held the edge in horserace polling matchups since this spring, with a new Trafalgar survey finding the three candidates separated by just a percentage point with none recording the support of a quarter of likely primary voters.

As has been the case in a number of states already this cycle, Republicans are landing on the primary ballot in record numbers.

In Missouri, voters will have the choice of a staggering 21 candidates in the GOP primary – more than five times the party average of 4.1 candidates across the 41 previous primaries held for the office since 1908.

That shattered the prior state Republican mark set in 2018 when Josh Hawley led a field of 11 candidates to win his party’s U.S. Senate nomination.

It also sets a state record, besting the 14 Democrats who ran in 1992 to take on incumbent Kit Bond. Saint Louis County Councilwoman Geri Rothman-Serot won that race.

However, despite the large number of candidates in those contests, they ended up being blowouts: Hawley won by 48.8 points and Rothman-Serot was victorious by 24.9 points.

No 2022 Republican hopeful has reached the 30 percent mark in polling over the last half-year and so it is quite possible that the winning candidate could emerge with the lowest ever primary support in a Missouri U.S. Senate race.

To be sure, with 21 names on the ballot, there are plenty of opportunities for voters to further depress the vote of the eventual winner, by backing other establishment (e.g. U.S. Representative Billy Long, state Senator Dave Schatz) or non-establishment (e.g. gun-wielding attorney Mark McCloskey) candidates.

The current Missouri record is held by Roscoe Patterson. A former U.S. Representative, Patterson won the 1928 GOP primary with just 31.4 percent edging ex-congressman Nathan Frank and former state Senator David Proctor by 3.4 points and 5.0 points respectively. Just six candidates were on the ballot in that cycle.

While the eventual 2022 nominee may be hobbled a bit by the hard-fought Republican primary, most political observers believe the GOP is a shoo-in to retain Roy Blunt’s open seat, unless the scandal-plagued Greitens is the winner.

The crowded field and three-way battle could also set the party record for the closest U.S. Senate primary race in state history.

Only four of the 41 GOP U.S. Senate primaries in Missouri have been decided by single digits with the closest call coming in 1956 when Neosho attorney Herbert Douglas defeated St. Louis attorney Albert Schoenbeck by 2.3 points.

The other competitive races were held in:

  • 1922: Kansas City attorney R.R. Brewster notched an 8.1-point win against St. Louis banker, real estate investor, and oil operator Williams Sacks
  • 1928: The aforementioned Roscoe Patterson landed a 3.4 point victory against fellow ex-U.S. Representative Nathan Frank
  • 2012: U.S. Representative Todd Akin defeated business executive John Brunner by 6.1 points

Nine Democratic primaries have been decided by less than 10 points since 1908 with three by less than two points:

  • 1922: Incumbent James Reed held off former assistant U.S. Secretary of State Breckinridge Long by 1.5 points
  • 1940: U.S. Senator Harry Truman defeated Governor Lloyd Stark by 1.2 points
  • 1950: Former U.S. Representative Thomas Hennings beat state Senator Emery Allison by 1.0 point

The Missouri primary will be held on August 2nd.

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  1. Connor Cobb on July 6, 2022 at 2:09 pm

    I’m gonna be honest with you, this seat is safe red even with Eric Greitens. He would still have a landslide in this wave year.
    Side note: It would be hilarious if Eric Schmitt were elected to the senate along side Scott Fitzpatrick being elected state auditor. If so, it would be the 2nd consecutive midterm cycle in which there were multiple resignations. By now we all know that in 2018 Eric Greitens resigned as governor, Lt. gov. Mike Parson ascended to the governorship. Attorney general Josh Hawley was elected to the senate, state treasurer Eric Schmitt was appointed to AG and Scott Fitzpatrick was appointed to state treasurer.

    • John Chessant on July 7, 2022 at 5:23 am

      Some more examples in recent years of multiple resignations among statewide elected executive officials in the same election cycle:

      *Nebraska, 2001: lieutenant governor David Maurstad resigned to become a regional director at FEMA and treasurer Dave Heineman was appointed to fill the vacancy (October 1)
      *Florida, 2002: secretary of state Katherine Harris resigned to run successfully for the U.S. House (August 2), and attorney-general Bob Butterworth resigned to run unsuccessfully for the state senate (November 4)
      *Colorado, 2005: attorney-general Ken Salazar resigned to become U.S. senator (January 3), treasurer Mike Coffman resigned to serve in the Marines during the Iraq war (June 9; he was reappointed as treasurer the following March), and secretary of state Donetta Davidson resigned to become a commissioner on the Election Assistance Commission (July 28)
      *Nevada, 2005-2006: attorney-general Brian Sandoval resigned to become a U.S. district court judge (October 26), and controller Kathy Augustine was murdered (July 11)
      *Pennsylvania, 2007-2008: treasurer Bob Casey Jr. resigned to become U.S. senator (January 3, 2007), and lieutenant governor Catherine Baker Knoll died in office (November 12, 2008)
      *Kansas, 2009-2010: governor Kathleen Sebelius resigned to become secretary of HHS and lieutenant governor Mark Parkinson took over (April 28), and secretary of state Ron Thornburgh resigned to take a job in the private sector (February 15)
      *Louisiana, 2010: lieutenant governor Mitch Landrieu resigned to become mayor of New Orleans (May 3), and secretary of state Jay Dardenne won the special election to fill the vacancy (November 22)
      *Arkansas, 2013-2014: treasurer Martha Shoffner resigned under indictment (May 21), and lieutenant governor Mark Darr resigned in scandal (February 1)
      *Pennsylvania, 2015-2016: treasurer Rob McCord resigned facing an imminent conviction (January 30, 2015), and attorney-general Kathleen Kane resigned following a conviction (August 17, 2016)
      *Alabama, 2017: attorney-general Luther Strange resigned when appointed to the U.S. Senate (February 9), and governor Robert Bentley resigned in scandal and lieutenant governor Kay Ivey took over (April 10)
      *Louisiana, 2017-2018: treasurer John Neely Kennedy resigned to become U.S. senator (January 3, 2017), and secretary of state Tom Schedler resigned in scandal (May 9, 2018)
      *Kansas, 2017-2018: treasurer Ron Estes resigned after being elected to the U.S. House (April 25), and governor Sam Brownback resigned to become a U.S. ambassador-at-large and lieutenant governor Jeff Colyer took over (January 31)
      *Iowa, 2017-2018: governor Terry Branstad resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China and lieutenant governor Kim Reynolds took over (May 24), and agriculture secretary Bill Northey resigned to become an undersecretary at USDA (March 5)
      *Mississippi, 2018: agriculture commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith resigned when appointed to the U.S. Senate (April 1), and auditor Stacey Pickering resigned to become director of the state veterans affairs board (July 12)
      *Kansas, 2021: treasurer Jake LaTurner resigned after being elected to the U.S. House and lieutenant governor Lynn Rogers was appointed to fill the vacancy (January 2)
      *California, 2021: secretary of state Alex Padilla resigned when appointed to the U.S. Senate (January 18), and attorney-general Xavier Becerra resigned to become secretary of HHS (March 18)
      *Connecticut, 2021-2022: comptroller Kevin Lembo resigned due to ill health (December 31), and secretary of state Denise Merrill resigned due to personal reasons (June 30)
      *North Dakota, 2022: tax commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger resigned in scandal (January 3), and attorney-general Wayne Stenehjem died in office (January 28)

      If Democrats Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman win their elections this November, then Pennsylvania (a state which already appears on the above list, twice) might see a double resignation in January 2023. Shapiro would resign the latter two years of his term as attorney-general to become governor [and be able to select the new attorney-general], and Fetterman would (presumably) resign the last two weeks of his term as lieutenant governor to become U.S. senator. [Fetterman could follow Rick Scott in slightly delaying his swearing-in in Washington in order to finish up his term, but there would seem to be no reason for doing so, not the least because it would cost him a handful of places in the seniority ranking.]

    • Flickertail Pembina on July 7, 2022 at 7:59 pm

      (side note: “…in 2018…” resignation due to _difficulties of circumstance_; ascension; resignation upon election; appointments x 2)

      Two years prior, the Show Me State elected Republicans to the posts of treasurer, secretary of state, attorney general, and governor, to succeed Democratic incumbents who either were term-limited or chose to bid for other elective offices – resulting in possibly the largest partisan shifts of statewide elective offices of any State that year. Given its sharp rightward lurch to the benefit of the Rs since then, the auditor post is poised to switch from D to R as well this year.

  2. Flickertail-Pembina on July 15, 2022 at 8:36 pm

    As nominee, disgraced ex-GUV Greitens would certainly garner fewer votes than Schmitt, or even Vicky Hartzler or Billy Long, but even he would have to be considered at least the precarious favorite (just not a “shoo-in”).

    I for one can not think of a reason why Scott Fitzpatrick would choose to make a (downward) move from treasurer – main financial post for the state – to auditor. After all, he is holding his post by election (after first being appointed), and could bid for the secondary fiscal post in the future, after he completes his current term, which ends in early 01 of 2025.

    Of the close primary contests, the most consequential one, by far, may be the 1940 D primary election between one-term incumbent Truman and Governor Stark. Had he been defeated – which would assuredly have resulted in someone other than “Give’em Hell Harry” being nominated as vice president in ’44 and then ascending to president the very next year – history of the world likely would have been (ahem) different, with the remainder of the Korean Peninsula, the Philippines, and Japan falling under the USSR-backed communist regimes, for starters.

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