Jacob Turk said he had decided several months ago he would run for the Missouri Senate when the seat from Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit came open in 2018.
The political calendar changed, and so did Turk’s fortunes, but this week he made his way to the ballot in a special election set for Nov. 7. A judge ruled that he had barely enough signatures from voters in the district to qualify.
Turk will be an independent on the ballot along with Republican Mike Cierpiot and Democrat Hillary Shields, all running to fill out the final year of the term of Sen. Will Kraus, who resigned in July to take a seat on the State Tax Commission.
“I know that Mike is upset because he doesn’t want to run against me, but he doesn’t get that choice,” Turk. “The people get that choice.”
All three candidates are from Lee’s Summit. Cierpiot has been in the Missouri House for seven years and is the majority floor leader. Shields, making her first run for office, is a co-founder of Indivisible KC.
The League of Women Voters plans a candidate forum at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 26 in the Ambassador Room at John Knox Village in Lee’s Summit.
Gov. Eric Greitens appointed Kraus to the tax commission, and Kraus resigned his Senate seat July 31. He was three years into his second term and by law could not run for a third next year. He represented the 8th District, which covers the southeast area of Jackson County, including Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Lee’s Summit, Oak Grove, Lake Tapawingo and Lake Lotawana.
A special election is needed to fill out the term, and those nominees are selected by local political parties. Democrats chose Shields on Aug. 13, and the Republican Committee for the 8th District chose Cierpiot on Aug. 15. He got 13 of the 18 votes on the first ballot, beating Turk and state Rep. Gary Cross of Lee’s Summit.
“That path was blocked,” Turk said.
He decided to gather signatures to run as an independent candidate. He turned just under 900 signatures, and election officials certified enough of those to put him on the ballot. But two members of the Republican 8th District Committee – Mary Potter of Blue Springs and Rand Hodgson of Oak Grove – went to court, challenging timing and signatures. Turk said he understands that Cierpiot had developed strong support on the Republican committee but said blocking his path as an independent was out of line.
“That, in my opinion, was just wrong,” Turk said.
The question went to a Cole County judge in Jefferson City. Judge Daniel Green did disallow some signatures but left in place 629 of them – exactly the number needed to stay on the ballot.
What’s his take on the judge arriving at that specific number?
“The good Lord has a sense of humor,” Turk said.
Turk says the idea that he’ll just split the Republican vote in the heavily Republican district – Kraus was unopposed in 2014 – is not well thought out. Turk has run as a Republican six times against Democratic Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II, and he said he’s built up good will among many voters for his perseverance and for not running a negative campaign.
He listed a couple policy areas that he’d like to focus on if he wins. One is veterans services.
“I’m a veteran, so that’s a soft spot for me. I’m a Marine,” he said.
Also, he says the Missouri Department of Revenue is too aggressive toward some small businesses.
“It seems like they should have a remedy for having their assets seized,” he said.
But he said his focus is on a larger, more philosophical idea. It’s the idea of representing the district to Jefferson City “instead of representing the party back to us,” he said.
Turk did not commit to caucusing with Republicans in the Senate should he win.
“That’s a decision to be made,” he said. “I would lean in that direction.”
He said he’s “absolutely” confident about winning.
“Now that we’ve got the court case behind us,” he said, “we feel good.”