Tony Luetkemeyer bills himself as “a political outsider” who wants to take on “politics-as-usual,” but his campaign donations and connections point to strong ties within the Missouri political world.
The Platte County Republican is one of three candidates vying for an open State Senate seat in August’s primary. The 34th Senate District encompasses both Buchanan and Platte counties and is currently represented by Sen. Rob Schaaf, a Republican from St. Joseph who cannot run for re-election due to term limits. Luetkemeyer’s two challengers in the GOP primary are both elected office-holders in Buchanan County: Presiding Commissioner Harry Roberts and County Assessor Scot Van Meter. Roberts was elected to his first term as a Republican in 2014. Van Meter is serving his fifth term as a Democrat.
“I’m the only person running in this race who is not an establishment politician,” said Luetkemeyer.
Despite his first-time candidacy, Luetkemeyer is proving to be an effective fundraiser. His war chest – totaling $300,000 in contributions – is filled with donations from political insiders, including several contributions from donors with close ties to embattled Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens.
Members of the Herzog family and executives from Herzog companies have already contributed over $10,000 to Luetkemeyer this cycle. In the 2016 campaign for governor, Herzog-related contributions to Greitens totaled close to $650,000. Moreover, the building that houses Gov. Greitens’ political non-profit is owned by Herzog. In addition, Luetkemeyer’s wife currently serves as Greitens’ general legal counsel — a tax-payer funded posistion.
“I’m extremely proud of my wife, the work that she’s does, the commitment to public service that she’s always shown,” Luetkemeyer said.
In addition to his ties to the governor’s inner circle, Luetkemeyer’s contributions largely come from outside the constituency he is trying to woo. He raised $101,900 last quarter, but only $14,415 came from in-district donations. Since officially beginning their campaigns last year, Luetkemeyer has brought in a significantly larger amount of donations from political action committees compared to Roberts, raising a total of $75,218 from 51 different PACs, while Roberts brought in a total of $7,350 from six PACs.
On the sources of his funding, Luetkemeyer said no one is going to buy his vote.
“It takes money to run political campaigns,” Luetkemeyer said. “And the reality is that my opponent has also received a great deal of money. I’m proud of the support we’ve had, both in district and out of state. The reason why, I think, we’ve seen people investing in this campighn is because they beleive that we have a message to grow jobs and grow the economy in Missouri.”
On Van Meter’s change of party, Luetkemeyer said he was surprised and that he wasn’t familiar with Van Meter.
“I had to look him up on the internet to figure out who it was,” Luetkemeyer said. “I’m a Republican and I think Republicans should be running in Republican primaries.”
Ultimately, he wants to focus on the issues; good schools and keeping crime out of Missouri’s cities.
“One of the reasons I decided to run and get into this race is because, like many people, I saw the grid lock and both the things going on at the federal and state level and just things not getting done even though you have super majority Republican control in both the House and the Senate at the state level,” Luetkemeyer said. “I think people just want somebody who’s going to get things done and move the ball forward.”
Whoever wins the Republican primary in August will face Democrat Martin T. Rucker II, who is running uncontested in his primary.