The race for the vacant 34th District Missouri State Senate seat that will represent Platte and Buchanan counties is in the home stretch.
Parkville resident Tony Luetkemeyer, the Republican nominee, is battling Riverside resident and Democratic nominee Martin T. Rucker II for a spot in Jefferson City. The winner will replace Dr. Rob Schaaf, a Republican from St. Joseph who is term-limited out.
Both candidates were part of the trunk-or-treat event on Friday, Oct. 26 at the Platte County Community Center South location in Parkville — as were many other candidates in county and state races.
Luetkemeyer, who won the primary election in August against Harry Roberts, got the backing of Roberts and most recently of U.S. Rep. Sam Graves. The two will be part of a watch party on Tuesday, Nov. 6, at Piropos Restaurant in Kansas City.
Luetkemeyer has also been endorsed by the Missouri Farm Bureau and NFIB Missouri Political Action Committee.
Luetkemeyer and Rucker, both graduates of the University of Missouri, debated earlier this month at the St. Joseph News-Press office. The main talking points were dark money, with Rucker referencing Luetkemeyer’s primary race against Roberts that drug the former Buchanan County presiding commissioner ‘through the mud’ in a race that featured millions raised by both Republican candidates.
When talking about Clean Missouri, the Amendment 1 ballot issue, Luetkemeyer was against it, while Rucker was in favor of it.
The Parkville candidate brought up Rucker’s Northland Progress, Inc., a grass roots non-profit political organization, which he referenced as a ‘dark money’ group and said it was being investigated by the IRS and the Missouri Ethics Commission.
The latter was true, but Rucker was cleared of any wrong doing two days prior to the debate in St. Joseph — Rucker’s hometown.
“The commission found no reasonable grounds exist to support a violation of Chapter 130, RSMO., and dismissed the complaint against the candidate and his committee,” MEC executive director Elizabeth L. Ziegler said.
The complaint against Rucker was filed by Platte County GOP chairman James Rooney on Sept. 10, who accused him of violating state and federal campaign finance laws. Also filed was a complaint against Northland Progress for being an unregistered PAC.
“Northland Progress is a dark money group co-founded by Rucker, started with seed money from his failed state representative campaign,” Rooney wrote. “It does not disclose its donor and has never registered with the MEC or filed reports. Northland Progress’s dark money spending on behalf of liberal causes and Democrat candidates goes unseen, even as it endorses and coordinates with Rucker and other candidates who are the group’s members.”
The more than 80-page PDF sent by the Weston resident to the MEC included an article on the start of Northland Progress that appeared in The Citizen on May 31, 2017, a February 2017 story in the St. Joseph News-Press as well as comments made by Rucker and co-founder Blake Green, a Parkville resident, on a Facebook live video. All told, Rooney listed more than 100 bullet points discussing the ‘shadowy non-profit’ Northland Progress.
Rucker resigned as the group’s vice president when he started his campaign.
Luetkemeyer also had an ethics complaint filed against him last month — levied by Schaaf, a member of his own party, but that was also dismissed by the MEC.
Schaaf provided a 43-page complaint to the commission and gave a 48-minute speech on the Senate floor, aligning donors with former Gov. Eric Greitens and Luetkemeyer.
“It’s bad when the senator from your own party believes you’re too corrupt to replace him,” Platte County Democratic Central Committee chairman David Christian said. “Watching the Republican primary unfold, anyone could see the mega donors and special interests were on Tony’s side, but no one could have imagined it would be this corrupt.”
A late twist in the battle was a mailing done by the Missouri Republican Party that falsely tied Rucker to the St. Joseph School District scandal that led to former superintendent Dan Colgan landing in jail.
The mailing shows a photo of Rucker and says ‘Tax and Spend Martin Rucker is too reckless on education to be our senator.’
The only problem is that Rucker never served on the SJSD school board. Rather, his father, Martin T. Rucker did. KCUR reported on the misidentification last week and when supplied with comment from Luetkemeyer, he said “Voters should know Martin Rucker’s record before they vote. He loves raising taxes on Missourians. I don’t.”
Rucker II has never held a public office to be in a position to vote for any tax increases. He spent five years playing in the NFL after his playing days at Missouri and now works for a construction company in Kansas City.
“While all of the previous race-baiting, non-factual, smear garbage my opponent and his donors have been sending out was expected, this is the most deceptive and dishonest of them all,” Rucker posted on his Facebook page on Oct. 23 about the mailer. “They took a real story about something completely unrelated to me and craftily worded the message to make it seem like I was a part of it. Not only is this deceitful, but it’s dangerous. If we let them continue to get away with this and keep electing candidates that use these blatantly deceitful tactics, we have no excuse to complain when our schools are underfunded, affordable healthcare is nonexistent, and our working families remain under attack.”
“Guys and gals, the only way we change the political games being played is by changing the people we elect. Thanks for your support!”