Missouri Gov. Mike Parson backing Kalena Bruce in crowded 4th District GOP primary

Bruce is among seven Republicans running to replace U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler

By: - June 7, 2022 6:30 am

Fourth District Congressional candidate Kalena Bruce speaks at a June 6, 2022, campaign event in Sedalia with Gov. Mike Parson looking on (Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent).

SEDALIA – Gov. Mike Parson waded into the crowded 4th Congressional District Republican primary Monday, citing long-time family friendship and past political support for backing Kalena Bruce.

Bruce, an accountant and cattle farmer from Stockton, is making her first bid for public office, and the help from Parson will boost her profile in the seven-candidate GOP field. The incumbent, U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, is giving up the seat to make a bid for the U.S. Senate.

“You know what they always tell governors?” Parson told the crowd of about 70 at the Fox Theater Event Center. “Governor, stay out of the primaries. You don’t need to be out there for a candidate. But I am going to tell you what. I am a loyal guy.”

Bruce’s parents and other family members are friends and long-time supporters, said Parson, who first ran for office in 1992.

“I am going to return those favors at times like this,” Parson said. “Yeah, I know them real well and that is why I am here tonight to support her.”

The 4th District primary is one of three Republican races generating a lot of interest prior to the Aug. 2 primary, along with the U.S. Senate race and the 7th District contest in southwest Missouri.

Parson lives in Polk County and became a resident of the 4th District thanks to the new map he signed into law last month. He’s not made any endorsements in the 7th District or the Senate race, although he appeared at a fundraiser for state Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz’s U.S. Senate campaign in March.

After he spoke Monday, Parson said he does not intend to endorse in the Senate race or the 7th District but he will help candidates raise money.

Parson called out names of many people on hand and recalled that he met them when he ran for the state Senate for the first time in 2010. He asked them to give Bruce a chance if they have never met her.

When she spoke, Bruce said she decided to run while talking with her husband about the federal COVID-19 response and how the Paycheck Protection Program and the increased child tax credit were “luring America into complacency.”

Democrats control both chambers of Congress and Bruce said she wants to fight the “socialist” policies being pursued by Democrats.

“We are going to be the person who is willing to stand up against (New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) and her squad,” Bruce said.

The 4th District runs from central Missouri west to the Kansas border along and mainly south of the Missouri River. Because it is considered a safe Republican seat, it has drawn a field of seven candidates – Bruce, state Sen. Rick Brattin of Harrisonville, former Boone County Clerk Taylor Burks, former St. Louis Blues player Jim “Soupy” Campbell, retired Kansas City anchorman Mark Alford, retired Navy SEAL Bill Irwin of Harrisonville and Kyle Stonner LaBrue of Osage Beach.

After Parson signed the bill establishing the new districts, Bruce called on opponents who did not live in the district to quit the race. Members of the U.S. House must be residents of the state that elects them but there is no requirement they be residents of the district.

Bruce’s release came a few days after one filed candidate, state Rep. Sara Walsh of Ashland, ended her campaign because she and her constituency now vote in the 3rd District.

Alford and LaBrue do not live in the district. Alford has said he intends to sign a contract to build a home in Cass County.

The latest fundraising reports, through March 30, showed Burks and Alford leading the pack, with Bruce third among the candidates in cash collected.

Parson’s support for Bruce is the biggest name that has weighed in on the race, but other candidates are touting their support as well. Last week, Burks announced he had the endorsement of Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2024.

As the only farmer in the race, Bruce is going to have an edge over other candidates in the largely rural district, said Brent Hampy, a former president of the Pettis County Farm Bureau. 

“I think it should,” he said. “I sure hope it does.”

Along with pushing her background as one that will keep her rooted at home rather than Washington, Bruce said she wasn’t running to secure a base for a bigger job.

“I don’t want to go to Congress to get another job or put a rung on my ladder,” she said.

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget and the legislature. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he spent 22 of his 32 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics for the Columbia Daily Tribune, where he won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.