The Four States NPR News Source
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Updated 06/18/2024 - KRPS 89.9 FM is fully operational, broadcasting at 100,000 watts.

Former Missouri state Sen. Bob Onder runs for 3rd District congressional seat

Former state Sen. Bob Onder speaks at a press conference on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024 in St. Charles. Onder is running for lieutenant governor, but has been linked to the 3rd Congressional District contest.
Former state Sen. Bob Onder speaks at a press conference on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024 in St. Charles. Onder is running for lieutenant governor, but has been linked to the 3rd Congressional District contest.

The St. Charles County Republican first ran for Congress nearly 16 years ago, losing a primary to eventual victor Blaine Luetkemeyer, who is retiring.

Nearly 16 years after his first campaign for Congress, former state Sen. Bob Onder is entering the federal electoral arena again with a run for Missouri’s 3rd Congressional District.

The St. Charles County Republican announced on Friday he’ll seek the GOP nomination in the district that includes places like St. Charles, Jefferson, Warren, Callaway and Boone counties. He had previously announced a bid for lieutenant governor.

“It's Groundhog Day today. We cannot solve these problems by just sending the same politicians back to D.C.,” Onder said.

Onder started to seriously consider running to succeed Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer after he announced his retirement in January. Onder cited his opposition to President Joe Biden’s immigration policies and his desire to tackle the nation’s high inflation rate.

“I think I'm the best candidate for Congress, because I have proven that I am an effective conservative leader,” Onder said. “I think that in Washington, D.C., the swamp is even worse than it is in Jefferson City. And I've shown that I will listen to the people who send me to Washington, D.C., just as I listened to the people who sent me to Jeff City — and not immediately kowtow to leadership.”

Onder was referring to being part of the now-defunct Conservative Caucus as a member of the Missouri Senate. That’s where he got into heated disagreements with GOP leadership over a host of issues. He recently joined the Missouri Freedom Caucus as an emeritus member.

“I'll get to work on solving problems, like border security, overspending and inflation, and fighting the woke agenda,” Onder said. “So I think I'm the person in this race that has that record and will accomplish those things for the people in Missouri. “

Onder ran for the now-defunct 9th Congressional District in 2008, losing in the primary to Luetkemeyer. Luetkemeyer has represented the 3rd District since Missouri lost a seat after the 2010 census.

Onder, a physician who also has a law degree, is widely seen as a top contender for the seat, partially because he has the ability to self-fund his campaign. During his 2008 run he gave his campaign hundreds of thousands of dollars — and he had put roughly $500,000 of his own funds into his lieutenant governor bid.

Asked if he would self-fund again, Onder replied: “I think every candidate should put their money where their mouth is, and we will one way or the other have the resources we need to run this race.”

Other announced contenders for the seat include state Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold. Potential candidates include former Boone County Clerk Taylor Burks; former Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan; former state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, and St. Louis attorney Mark McCloskey. Brentwood resident Bethany Mann is running for the heavily GOP-leaning seat as a Democrat.

Onder’s decision to leave the lieutenant governor’s contest could prompt other candidates to enter that race. Current candidates include Sen. Holly Rehder, R-Scott City; House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres; Franklin County Clerk Tim Baker, and St. Louis County resident Paul Berry III.

Potential candidates include Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield.

Copyright 2024 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Jason Rosenbaum