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Missouri’s candidates running for the U.S. Senate were required to report their latest fundraising totals last week. Democrat Robin Carnahan raised more than $1.5 million during the fundraising period of April through June, and Republican Roy Blunt raised an even larger $2.2 million. And coming in more than $2 million behind that mark is another Republican who will contest Blunt in the August 3 primary: state senator Chuck Purgason. KSMU’s Adam Murphy tells us more about Purgason’s unique race for a U.S. Senate seat.
Purgason is known throughout the marble halls of the State Capitol building as the lawmaker who refused to stop wearing his bolo-tie and cowboy boots on the Senate floor. He was most recently in the news for his 21-hour filibuster. Purgason opposed a tax break for big automakers like the Ford Motor Company. The bill passed in a vote right after Purgason ended his filibuster. This willingness to stand up for his conservative politics and his constituents is why Purgason believes he is a good choice to serve Missouri in the U.S. Senate.
The owner of Ozarks Wings Hatchery and Hunting Preserve is originally from West Plains, Missouri. He now lives in Caulfield in south-central Missouri, and has served in the Missouri Senate for the last six years and in the Missouri House for eight years before that. Purgason announced his plans to run for the U.S. Senate at a West Plains restaurant, Ozark Café. Purgason says this grassroots style makes it easier to really find out what’s on people’s minds.
Purgason says he decided to run because he realized the Republican Party is not leading with conservative principles.
“We have to return to what made our party strong. That’s balanced budgets, fiscal responsibility, and returning a lot of these decisions back to state and locals and individuals,” said Purgason.
Purgason says his biggest struggle is his isolation from the Republican Party. He believes the party is not being impartial to every Republican candidate in the primary. Purgason says he has made multiple attempts to set up a debate with Blunt.
“Well I think it’s frustrating that even the party won’t sponsor a debate. I think that anyone that signs up to run under the Republican platform ought to have the same respect as anyone else. I’m disappointed that the party isn’t proud of all their candidates,” Purgason said.
While Blunt and Carnahan reportedly have millions, Purgason only reported having $148 in his campaign account at the beginning of the month. However, he said he’s raised about $30,000 in July. Still, he’s at a financial disadvantage in this race. He says his campaign is working to get his message out as much as possible with the resources they do have. Campaigning on facebook, Twitter, email and through other social media is helping him get in touch with more people without spending much money.
“The old way of 'Who raises the most money is probably going to win,' I think is starting to fade a little bit. It gets back into more of a grassroots organization, and I think it’s beginning to change the way politics is run,” he said.
This grassroots effort and a lot of money is exactly what Purgason will need to win, according Dr. George Connor. He’s head of the political science department at Missouri State University. He says Purgason will need a miracle to win the primary.
“It would take grassroots support from people who would call themselves tea partiers, from the most conservative elements of the Republican Party. And, it would take a lot of money. If Congressman Blunt has a weakness, it’s on the right side of Republican Party, and I think senator Purgason can delve in that weakness and gain support,” said Connor.
Purgason has built a volunteer base of over 450 people, and campaign events are happening every day all over the state. He says voters are beginning to wake up and see him as an alternative to the leadership of Blunt and Carnahan.
“If there’s one thing that I think is happening, it’s that silent majority of people beginning to wake up and understand that if we’re going to have a country that we’re going to pass on to our children and grandchildren, we’re going to have to get involved,” said Purgason.
With the primary coming up on August 3, Purgason says he believes he and Blunt will be "neck-and-neck."
For more information on Purgason and his campaign, you can visit his website: www.purgasonforsenate.com.
For KSMU News, I’m Adam Murphy.