Republican establishment slipping in Missouri congressional race

Missouri political insiders say that the race for the Republican nomination in the state’s eighth congressional district, which is holding a 2013 special election to replace retiring Republican congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson, is quickly slipping away from the party establishment’s preferred candidates.

Lt. Gov Peter Kinder, former state treasurer Sarah Steelman, and state party executive director Lloyd Smith have all lost ground in recent weeks to grassroots candidates Jason Smith and Todd Richardson, both of whom are state representatives.

“Kinder and (Lloyd) Smith are the faces of the Republican establishment in Missouri,” said one political insider, who cited that as the reason their chances for the nomination are slipping.

Kinder, whose prospective 2012 gubernatorial campaign was derailed when stripper and former Penthouse Pet Tammy Chapman alleged that he offered to let her live in his condo, is taking his St. Louis-based consultants with him into the congressional race, making him the presumptive favorite among Missouri political observers outside the eighth district.

However, Kinder’s election to Congress would mean that Democratic governor Jay Nixon would appoint Kinder’s successor to the lieutenant governorship, costing Republicans one of their top leaders at the State Capitol.

“During the meeting, that question was asked of him, and we discussed that,” said Jefferson County Republican Club president Bruce Valle, who met with Kinder last Friday. “It was a big concern at first.”

Former state treasurer Sarah Steelman also declared her candidacy for the seat with an announcement on Sarah Palin’s radio network, but sources on the ground report that her progress has been slow. A member of a prominent Missouri political family, Steelman’s political career was damaged when she lost to Todd Akin in the 2012 U.S. Senate primary.

Missouri GOP executive director Lloyd Smith, described by insiders as a straight operative and a career-long “party guy,” has also expressed his desire to run, making him a favorite among the Republican National Committee and Washington GOP bigwigs who hope to decide the nominee in a smoke-filled room situation.

But the nominee will instead be chosen by 86 delegates to Missouri’s eighth district Republican committee, each representing different geographical areas, which will make the vote more like a party convention than one decided by a political machine.