Jason Kander Senate Bid Competitive In New Poll

By John Celock

A young elected official’s bid for the U.S. Senate is competitive based on the results of a new poll released Tuesday.

Public Policy Polls shows Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, the presumptive Democratic Senate nominee, trailing Sen. Roy Blunt (R) by five percentage points, with Blunt’s favorability numbers low. The poll had Blunt leading Kander 40 percent to 35 percent with 25 percent of those surveyed undecided.

The poll indicated that only 30 percent of those surveyed approved of Blunt’s job performance, while 47 percent disapprove, a drop from a similar surveyed conducted in 2012 that had a 35 percent favorable rating versus a 34 percent unfavorable rating. The first term senator is unpopular with Democrats and independents, while only 46 percent of Republicans surveyed viewed Blunt, a long time elected official in Missouri, as favorable.

The poll showed that the 34-year-old Kander is largely unknown amongst Missouri voters, despite holding the third highest office in state government in 2013. Fourteen percent of those surveyed had a favorable opinion of Kander with 21 percent holding an unfavorable opinion. Sixty five percent of those surveyed did not have an opinion of Kander.

The Missouri Senate race has been shaping up as one of the most competitive in the country, with Kander viewed as a strong recruit against Blunt. Blunt won the seat in 2010 against then Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D), after a 14-year career in Congress, including a stint as acting majority leader. Blunt has been in elective office in Missouri for over four decades, starting with his 1972 election as Greene County clerk. He served as Missouri’s secretary of state from 1985 to 1993 and lost bids for lieutenant governor in 1980 and governor in 1992.

Blunt’s son, Matt, was Missouri’s governor from 2005 to 2009 following four years as secretary of state.

Kander, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, has been viewed as a rising star in Missouri politics since his 2008 election to the state House of Representatives from a Kansas City district. During his tenure in the state House, Kander was known for his support for ethics and campaign finance reform in the state, including the establishment of gift bans for lawmakers and campaign donation limits.

Kander was elected secretary of state in 2012, defeating Republican Shane Schoeller by 40,000 votes. As secretary of state he serves as Missouri chief elections officer, along with overseeing business registration and library issues. From 2013 to 2015 Kander was the nation’s youngest statewide elected official.

Kander is one of four thirtysomethings seeking U.S. Senate seats next year. U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, 32, is seeking the Democratic Senate nomination in an open seat in Florida. Murphy, the nation’s youngest House member from 2013 to 2015, is competing with U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson in the Florida primary. Murphy has backing from Washington politicos who view him as a more competitive general election candidate than Grayson.

In Ohio, 30-year-old Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is running against former Gov. Ted Strickland for the Democratic nomination to oppose Sen. Rob Portman (R) next year. Strickland is viewed as the frontrunner in that contest.

In Maryland, 35-year-old Republican Chrys Kefalas is seeking the GOP nomination for the state’s open Senate seat. Kefalas, who was an aide to former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, is part of a still forming GOP field for the seat. Potential candidates include former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, former Maryland first lady Kendel Ehrlich and U.S. Rep. Andy Harris. U.S. Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards are seeking the Democratic nomination.

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) is the currently the nation’s youngest senator at 38.

If elected, Kander, Murphy or Sittenfeld could become the nation’s first senator born in the 1980s. Former U.S. Sen. Carte Goodwin (D-W.V.), who served a four-month appointive term in 2010, is the first senator in history to be born in the 1970s. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), both elected in 2010, are the first elected senators to be born in the 1970s.