Democrats stepping up pressure in St. Louis region ahead of 2018 elections

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WASHINGTON • Coming off a series of congressional elections in which they have been largely trounced in the St. Louis region, Democrats are starting early on 2018.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Thursday will launch a three-week advertising campaign against Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, who occupies one of three Republican-held congressional seats in the St. Louis region that Democrats say they will target next year.

The others are the Metro East district held by Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville; and the Missouri 2nd District seat held by Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin.

Republicans are expected to fight hard to retain those seats.

The campaign committee, a national congressional election arm of the Democratic Party, said it will spend an unspecified amount — “sizable six-figures,” a spokesman said — attacking Republicans in a dozen districts around the country. Incumbents in those districts include Bost, who is in his second term of office.

The ads — on radio, national television and social media — will target Republicans for their efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act and argue that they will not stop doing so until they lose control of Congress. Bost voted for a repeal and replacement of the law, often called Obamacare, that, so far, has failed to pass the Senate.

Democratic St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly has announced he will run for Bost’s seat. Kelly will be in Washington, D.C., next week meeting with party officials.

“It should come as no surprise that the DCCC is weighing in early in an effort to buy this seat,” said Matt McCullough, Bost’s chief of staff. “We knew they’d stop at nothing to replace a fighter like Mike Bost with a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi’s liberal agenda, and our team is ready for the challenge.”

Bost was targeted by the DCCC early in the 2016 election cycle, but won re-election by almost 15 percentage points. President Donald Trump also won the 12th District by about 15 percentage points last year, according to an analysis published by Daily Kos, a Democratic website.

Rep. William Lacy Clay, who represents the heavily Democratic 1st Congressional district in St. Louis, is the only Democratic U.S. House member from the region.

In addition to the focus on the 12th District in Illinois, a group that spent $1.7 million on behalf of former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander in Kander’s 2016 Senate loss to incumbent Republican Roy Blunt plans to support Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., in her bid for re-election next year.

The group, End Citizens United, cites McCaskill’s support of a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 Supreme Court decision that unleashed unprecedented amounts of money, much of it “dark money” whose origins are often hard to determine, into American political campaigns.

The group quotes McCaskill saying that “The Citizens United Supreme Court decision has had a corrupting influence on American democracy in ways that we have never seen before. Missourians — and all Americans — deserve to know who is bankrolling the ads they see on TV and hear on the radio.”

The Center for Responsive Politics says that End Citizens United raised more than $25 million for the 2016 elections and spent all of it on behalf of Democratic candidates. The group reported raising almost $10 million for the 2018 elections through August. Most of its donations are small – some as low as $5 – and from individuals, including many through the online Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue.

End Citizens United’s communications spokesperson is Anne Feldman, Kander’s spokesperson during his narrow loss to Blunt last year.

Kander also has been making news lately.

His top adviser and top spokesman have moved to Iowa to help run Kander’s “Let America Vote” national voting rights organization’s office in the Hawkeye State. It is one of a handful of states where Kander’s group has set up offices. Iowa is also the first caucus state of the 2020 presidential campaign.

In endorsing McCaskill, the End Citizens United group notes that Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley was endorsed in his 2016 election by Citizens United, the conservative group that brought its successful challenge of campaign finance spending laws to the Supreme Court. Hawley has been raising money to mount a potential challenge to McCaskill in 2018, but has not yet announced whether he will run.

This week, he filed a “Hawley Victory Committee” with the Federal Election Commission.

Other declared GOP Senate candidates include 2016 Libertarian presidential hopeful Austin Petersen; largely unknown Navy veteran Courtland Sykes and Tony Monetti of Warrensburg, a retired Air Force pilot and assistant dean at the University of Central Missouri Aviation Department.

Political Fix from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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