Then there were two, Van Meter drops out of senate race

The Republican field for the 34th Senate District got a little less crowded late last week.

Scott Van Meter withdrew his name as a candidate in a field that features Harry Roberts and Tony Luetkemeyer.

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According to the Secretary of State website, Van Meter withdrew on May 4, just days after a lawsuit was filed against him in Cole County.

The 34th Republican Senatorial District Committee filed a suit against Van Meter and Jay Ashcroft, the Missouri Secretary of State, in an effort to make Ashcroft take  Van Meter off the ballot.

The contention among Republicans is that Van Meter is currently an elected Democrat in Buchanan County. He has been the assessor since 2001 and won re-election as a Democrat in November 2016.

“My goal was to win and be the best representative of the people I could be, just as I have done as assessor for the last 18 years,” Van Meter said in a press release. “It has become clear to me that the odds are against me at being competitive in this race. When I filed, I did not expect to be greeted with open arms by all, but, I am surprised at the negative spin Harry Roberts, the Republican Party and the media have put on my candidacy. I want to focus on ways we can move the 34th District forward. Others want to focus on tearing me down. I am not one for the politics of personal destruction.

“When I filed as a Republican candidate for the 34th District Senate seat, I did so with the intent of representing our community as a conservative voice,” Van Meter said. “Although, those that do not know me have tried to discredit my conservative credentials, they do not know me. Those that do know me were not surprised by my announcement of switching from the Democrat Party to the Republican Party.”

Jim Rooney, chairman of the 34th Senate District GOP committee, hand delivered a letter to Ashcroft at the Spring to Victory event in Parkville last month stating opposition to Van Meter’s name being on the ballot for the primary election on Aug. 7.

The race is to win a spot in the November election to fill a spot vacated by Sen. Rob Schaaf, who reached his term limit.

Van Meter filed on Jan. 15 his intentions to run for another term as an assessor in Buchanan County as a Democrat. On March 27, he filed as a Republican in the 34th Senate District race.

“An epiphany occurred between January and March 27 that made him a Republican,” Rooney said.

Both Roberts and Luetkemeyer opposed the entrance of a Democrat in a Republican primary. Schaaf, a St. Joseph native, took to Twitter once the news broke and inferred Van Meter’s entrance into the poll was to split the vote between Van Meter and Roberts, another St. Joseph resident, against Luetkemeyer, who lives in Parkville.

“Running a Democrat from Buchanan as a Republican for my seat in order to split the vote and advantage the machine’s candidate Leutkemeyer shows their desperation and total lack of honor,” Schaaf tweeted on March 27.

The next day, he posted another Tweet about the race.

“Hard to believe that Todd Graves, head of MO GOP, past employer of Leutkemeyer’s wife, and on the board of Herzog, employer of Van Meter’s father and brother, didn’t OK recruiting the Democrat to run against a staunch Republican. #moleg”

Now the showdown in August will be between Roberts, the current Buchanan County presiding commissioner, and Luetkemeyer, a lawyer in Kansas City.

The winner will face off against Martin T. Rucker, the lone Democrat running in the field.