Missouri Senate Candidate Highlights Military Service

By John Celock

A Democratic candidate for the Missouri state Senate is putting his military experience front and center in a new web video.

State Rep. Stephen Webber, who is seeking an open Senate seat in the Columbia area, lets Marines that he served with in Iraq do most of the talking in an ad that says Webber is a leader from his two tours in Iraq. The veterans in the video say that Webber’s leadership included putting himself in harm’s way to prevent harm to those serving under him as a squad leader.

“Webber always led from the front, he was in the first vehicle,” Nic Gibbons said.

Aaron Schultz described Webber’s reasoning.

“The reason he was in front was if something happened, he wanted to be the one up there, in harm’s way,” Schultz said.

Those in the video stressed that Webber, who served in Fallujah during his time in Iraq, “got everyone home safe.”

Webber, a four-term state representative, is running against Rep. Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) for the Senate seat vacated by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for state attorney general. In the House, Webber has been known for his progressive record, including pushing for LGBT non-discrimination legislation.

Webber, 33, is not the first young veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to stress their military service. Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate this year, has stressed his Army service including in his campaign announcement. Kander has said that his service in Afghanistan, and witnessing corruption there, helped lead him to seek office in Missouri and work on ethics reform. Kander and Webber are close allies in Missouri politics.

In Ohio, state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) has highlighted his military service in Iraq during several races, including his unsuccessful 2012 U.S. Senate race. Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop (D), a likely 2017 candidate for the Democratic nomination for New Jersey governor, has highlighted enlisting in the Marines following the Sept. 11 attacks in his previous campaigns.

Webber begins and ends the ad at the veterans memorial in Boone County, where he said he visited before and after his tours in Iraq.

“These names, the memory of their sacrifice, humbles me, gives me the strength to serve,” Webber said in the video.