Lucas Kunce, a Marine veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who now works at a think tank dedicated to battling corporate monopolies, announced Tuesday morning he’s running for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in Missouri.
Kunce, who grew up working class on the east side of the state capital of Jefferson City, joins a potentially crowded Democratic primary field in a solidly Republican state. Incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) announced Monday he would retire rather than seek a third term in Congress’s upper chamber.
Blunt’s announcement set off a flurry of moves on both sides of the political aisle in the state, though an eventual GOP candidate is all but certain to be heavily favored in the general election ― Donald Trump won the state by 15 percentage points in the 2020 presidential race.
“I think Missourians are ready for someone who’s lived through the struggles they’ve lived through,” Kunce told HuffPost in an interview Monday, recounting how his neighbors helped watch him and his siblings while his parents were in the hospital with a younger sister who battled a heart condition. “I didn’t just experience the struggles, I experienced the way we take care of each other.”
Kunce attended Yale on a scholarship and returned home to attend law school at the University of Missouri before joining the Marines, where he completed one tour in Iraq and two in Afghanistan before finishing his career at the Pentagon, where he says he first saw how corporate consolidation drove up costs for taxpayers and forced the government to buy foreign-made goods. Kunce now works as the director of national security for the American Economic Liberties Project.
The oppressive corporate monopoly structure we’re living under right now, we need to break that.
Lucas Kunce, Democratic candidate for Senate
Kunce is the third announced Democrat in the race, following former state Sen. Scott Sifton and gay rights activist Tim Shepard. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, who would be a leading candidate, told The Kansas City Star he is considering a run for statewide office.
While the primary field could get crowded, Kunce is set to get an early boost: The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which has close ties to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), is expected to endorsed Kunce later this week. The group has more than 10,000 members in Missouri.
Kunce indicated he plans to make economic concentration and corporate power a major issue in his campaign.
“The oppressive corporate monopoly structure we’re living under right now, we need to break that,” he said, noting a slew of Missouri-based companies, including Anheuser-Busch and Monsanto, have become foreign-owned in recent years. “Pharmaceutical cartels, big agriculture, big tech, defense monopolies ― all of them make it hard for a regular person to compete in the economy.”
Despite Missouri’s steady conservative drift in recent years, Kunce said Democratic successes backing referendums on what he calls “the four Ws” ― wages, weed, workers and wellness ― indicate there is still support for liberal policy goals in the state.
Still, Republicans are rightly confident about their ability to hold Blunt’s seat. Though some national Republicans worry that a primary victory by former Gov. Eric Greitens ― who resigned following sexual misconduct allegations ― could put the seat in jeopardy, he’s just one of many potential GOP nominees. Rep. Ann Wagner, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe and Attorney General Eric Schmitt all indicated they are considering running for the Senate seat.
The U.S. Senate is split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris giving Democrats the majority edge. History indicates Republicans, as the party out of power, should gain seats in the midterm elections. Democrats are expected to target GOP-held seats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and North Carolina, while hoping races in Ohio, Iowa and Missouri can become competitive.
Republicans are targeting incumbent Democratic senators in Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire and Nevada.
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