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Sen. Bill Eigel set to make Missouri GOP gubernatorial primary a three-way contest

Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring speaks with supporters of his gubernatorial campaign on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023, at the Missouri State Fair Ham Breakfast in Sedalia, Mo.
Tristen Rouse
St. Louis Public Radio
Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring speaks with supporters of his gubernatorial campaign on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023, at the Missouri State Fair Ham Breakfast in Sedalia, Mo.

The Weldon Spring Republican has been critical of Senate Republican leadership since he entered the Missouri legislature in 2017.

The Missouri Republican primary for governor is about to get more crowded.

Sen. Bill Eigel of Weldon Spring is slated to officially enter the GOP race to succeed Gov. Mike Parson on Friday afternoon. Eigel opened an exploratory committee a number of months ago but said he will make his statewide plans official at St. Charles County Regional Airport.

“I’ve spent the last year beating the bushes, and the answer to my search couldn’t be more clear: Missourians are tired of sending uniparty Republicans to Jefferson City that hold Missouri back from the big conservative wins that all of us are desperate for,” Eigel said in a statement before his announcement. “It’s time to send a bold, conservative reformer who will be a champion for the people of this great state and bring a reckoning to the Jefferson City Swamp.”

Eigel is an Air Force veteran who owned a residential and commercial remodeling business. He first ran for office in 2016, narrowly defeating two Republican candidates in a race to represent portions of St. Charles County.

Since entering the legislature, Eigel has joined some other Republicans in being critical of Senate GOP leadership on a host of issues — including the size of the state budget and, in 2022, efforts to redraw Missouri’s congressional districts. In an interview in February, Eigel said that Republican voters were growing increasingly disenchanted with the Missouri GOP.

“As I'm traveling around the state, I'm hearing a lot of Republicans that are expressing disappointment that we haven't enacted more big Republican policies,” Eigel said. “And they're pointing to states like Florida where guys like Ron DeSantis have the perception that they are. So I want to see a world where Ron DeSantis wakes up in the morning, and turns on his television and says: ‘Man, what about all the good things that are going on Missouri?’”

Eigel will be entering a contest that already includes Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft. Although Eigel and an aligned political action committee have raised enough for him to be considered a credible candidate, he faces two candidates with greater name recognition and more experience running for statewide office.

Eigel said earlier this year he wasn’t concerned that a competitive primary would weaken the eventual nominee — pointing to how Missouri has become much more Republican-leaning in recent election cycles.

“You're going to be seeing different Republicans vying to be the one that the people will choose to articulate what a better vision of tomorrow looks like,” he said.

So far, House Minority Leader Crystal Quade is the only Democrat running for governor. The primary is slated for next August.

Copyright 2023 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Jason Rosenbaum