Founding member of Senate conservative caucus exploring 2024 run for Missouri governor

Bill Eigel has served in the Missouri Senate since 2017, but is barred from running again due to term limits

By: - September 12, 2022 12:39 pm

Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Springs, engages in debate in the Missouri Senate (photo courtesy of Missouri Senate Communications).

Missouri Sen. Bill Eigel, a St. Charles County Republican who helped establish a faction of GOP senators that tied the legislature in procedural knots over the last two years, is exploring a run for governor. 

Eigel announced his intentions to create an exploratory committee for a 2024 gubernatorial bid  at a fundraiser on Saturday. He followed that up the next day with a Facebook ad.

“I’ve always been a believer that Missouri’s best days are ahead of us,” Eigel said in an interview Monday afternoon. “And if I can be a part of that, if that’s God’s plan, and that that’s in the people of Missouri’s plan for me to continue public service, I think that’d be amazing.”

Since entering the Senate in 2017, Eigel’s top legislative priority has been tax cuts. He’s championed numerous bills targeting income tax and property taxes, and has used his position on the Senate appropriations committee to criticize the growth of the state budget

If he runs for statewide office in 2024, Eigel said his legislative priorities will shape his campaign’s vision.

“The things that I’m particularly excited about are continuing to reduce the size and scope of government,” Eigel said. “The way I would do that is to push Missouri into line with states like Florida and Texas by getting away from the income tax and reducing regulations on business, the types of things I’ve talked about at length in the Senate.”

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is unable to run again in 2024 due to term limits, and the campaign to replace him as the GOP nominee was widely seen as a two-man race. 

Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe has been actively running for the nomination for more than a year, racking up endorsements from a wide array of groups like the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police and the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association. 

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft is considering a run but has repeatedly said he has made no decision about his 2024 plans other than he won’t seek a third term in his current office. 

Eigel said he has yet to put much thought into any of the other potential people in the race, but “if there were other candidates out there that I thought could bring the same kind of focus and results to the table as I think I would if I were in that spot, I probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

A founding member of the Senate conservative caucus, Eigel has been a key figure in the escalating war over the last two years with Republican leadership.  

The tensions culminated this year with conservative caucus members used parliamentary maneuvers to gum up the Senate and, with their priorities failing to get traction, turned otherwise anodyne bills into vehicles for controversial amendments pertaining to transgender student athletes, critical race theory and vaccine mandates.

Ashcroft has not involved himself in the day-to-day drama of the Missouri Senate. But he has weighed in on various issues on the side of the conservative caucus — most notably, his support for the caucus’ push to redraw U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s Kansas City-based seat to make it more likely Republicans could capture it.

Meanwhile, Kehoe has occasionally drawn the ire of the conservative caucus due to the lieutenant governor’s role presiding over the Senate. In late 2021, for example, Eigel blasted Kehoe refusing to recognize a motion from a conservative caucus member that the lieutenant governor said violated the rules of the chamber.

The conservative caucus disbanded soon after the primaries, where candidates aligned with and supported by the conservative caucus won four competitive races for open seats. An incumbent who aligned with GOP leadership was also defeated.

The caucus called for peace in the Senate, but insisted that was only possible with new leadership

Fundraising

Should he choose to jump into the race for governor, Eigel would start out well behind potential rivals in campaign funding. 

In his last campaign disclosure report, Kehoe reported raising $131,000, with $543,000 cash on hand. The political action committee supporting his candidacy, called American Dream PAC, reported $1.1 million cash on hand as of July 1. 

Ashcroft reported raising $17,000 in his last quarterly report, with $543,000 cash on hand. The PAC supporting his candidacy, called Committee for Liberty, reported $972,000 cash on hand as of July 1.

Eigel, who is unable to run for his Senate seat again due to term limits, reported $121,000 cash on hand in his campaign committee as of July 1. The PAC supporting his candidacy, called Believe in Life and Liberty-BILL PAC, had $167,000 cash on hand as of July 1. 

Since that report was filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission, however, BILL PAC has reported $143,000 is large donations, mostly from PACs and businesses connected to lobbyist Steve Tilley. 

Tilley, a former Missouri lawmaker whose activities have drawn FBI attention over the years, was a major fundraiser for Parson’s successful 2020 run. His clients and the constellation of PACs his lobbying firm operates have donated $95,000 so far this year to the political action committee supporting Parson. 

Two of those PACs — Missouri Growth PAC and Missouri AG PAC — donated $10,000 apiece to Eigel’s BILL PAC last week. 

For much of the year, Tilley has been raising money for Ashcroft’s Committee for Liberty PAC. The law firm of Michael Ketchmark, a personal injury attorney from Leawood, Kansas, who is close to Tilley, cut a $250,000 check to support Ashcroft in March. 

A company connected to Tilley called Perryville Investments also donated $10,000 to Ashcroft. 

Eigel said it’s “easy to overestimate the importance of money in a campaign.”

“If you don’t really have a vision and the ability to articulate where you would like to the state to go and articulate that to the voters,” he said, “the amount of money is almost irrelevant.”

However, he is confident he will be able to raise enough money to run a successful statewide campaign, should he decided to take the plunge.

This story has been updated since if first published.

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Jason Hancock
Jason Hancock

Jason Hancock has been writing about Missouri since 2011, most recently as lead political reporter for The Kansas City Star. He has spent nearly two decades covering politics and policy for news organizations across the Midwest, and has a track record of exposing government wrongdoing and holding elected officials accountable.

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