Democrat Lucas Kunce, a Marine veteran and antitrust advocate, is running for US Senate in Missouri.
Courtesy Lucas Kunce campaign
- Missouri was the first state to ban abortions after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
- Democratic US Senate candidate Lucas Kunce said Democrats must abolish the filibuster.
- He said Democrats were too focused on running on abortion rights versus delivering solutions.
Lucas Kunce, who is running for the Democratic nomination for US Senate in Missouri, is frustrated with his national party’s response to Supreme Court striking down a national right to abortion.
Since the decision landed, the Biden administration and Democratic campaign arms have stressed to voters that the best way for them to channel their anger against the Supreme Court’s decision would be to go to the ballot box in November to elect more Democrats. But should the party manage to make further inroads in November, a new Congress wouldn’t come into power until January 2023, and a consensus on the issue could take even longer.
“I don’t like the framing of this being an election issue, because even if Democrats win everything it’s going to be a whole year of people without power having forced births,” Kunce, a 13-year Marine veteran and antitrust advocate, told Insider in an interview.
The topic is particularly salient in Missouri, which was was the first state to ban abortions through its “trigger law” just minutes after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The new law doesn’t have exceptions for rape or incest.
Even before the Supreme Court’s decision, Missouri had just one abortion clinic. To obtain an abortion, patients travel to neighboring Illinois, a state that has almost no limits on the procedure.
In his interview with Insider, Kunce questioned the motives of the “Democratic political class” who’d focused abortion messaging on the November midterms.
“I can’t tell, not being a DC insider, are they sitting on this to use as an election issue? They talk about it 24/7 as an election issue,” Kunce said. “So to me that makes me wonder.”
Kunce, 39, will be vying against 10 other Democrats in the state’s August 2 primary for the seat being vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Roy Blunt, and says he’s running to “fundamentally change who has power in this country.”
At more than $4.3 million during the first cycle to date, he has outraised all other candidates in the race despite refusing donations from super PACs and corporate entities.
Kunce said he was encouraged by Biden’s executive order last week and supports undoing the filibuster — the 60-vote threshold required to pass most legislation. He otherwise supports a filibuster carve-out specifically for abortion rights, which is what President Joe Biden has called for.
Enshrining abortion rights is unlikely in the current Congress, however, because Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona oppose filibuster changes for any reason.
The Biden administration must “use whatever leverage they can” to pressure Manchin and Sinema to reverse their positions, Kunce said, or should pressure Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, both of whom support abortion rights.
Kunce supports the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill that would legalize abortion in all states and undo most restrictions.
Republicans have called the bill “extreme” — neither Murkowski, Manchin, nor Collins support it — but Kunce said at the very least Congress should work to codify Roe, which would allow abortion up until fetal viability. The Women’s Health Protection Act goes further than Roe by allowing undefined “health” exemptions to post-viability abortions.
Kunce also wants Congress to undo the Hyde Amendment, a funding rider that prevents the federal government from paying for most abortions, particularly for low-income patients. He hasn’t said where he stands on expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court.
Missouri race heats up
Democrats are hopeful that they can make inroads in Missouri given that whoever wins the primary appears likely to face off in November against scandal-plagued Republican Eric Greitens.
Greitens is the former governor of Missouri who resigned amid allegations that he sexually abused and blackmailed a woman with whom he was having an affair. His ex-wife also has accused him of abuse and bullying. Greitens has denied wrongdoing.
Though Missouri is a solidly red state that twice went for former President Donald Trump, it also has a populist streak. Voters have ushered in progressive priorities through ballot initiatives, from expanding Medicaid to raising the minimum wage.
“I probably hear more about legalizing cannabis in this state than I hear about Trump,” Kunce said.
The former president hasn’t yet endorsed a Republican in the race, and cannabis legalization for adults 21 and older is on the ballot this November.
There is also precedent for Missourians shunning restrictive abortion laws. In 2012, the late former US Rep. Todd Akin lost a US Senate seat to then-incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill after he argued an abortion ban didn’t need a rape exception, saying victims of “legitimate rape” couldn’t get pregnant.
Then, in 2019, the state’s health director admitted to monitoring the menstrual periods of Planned Parenthood patients. In March, a proposal failed in the legislature that would have allowed citizens to sue anyone who helps a patients get an abortion outside Missouri.
“There is a level of extremities that Missourians are not interested in,” Kunce said. “They don’t like the idea of Big Brother government being in their business all the time.”
Kunce said that if Republicans win the House in November while Democrats hold onto the Senate, then he could still put his political muscle behind a ballot measure to guarantee abortion access.
During his interview, he drew parallels between the US and what he witnessed during his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan when he was a Marine.
“It’s really sad just to think that they told us we were fighting for freedom over there and freedom was under attack here,” he said. “I have seen what those Big Brother governments look like. I have seen what it looks like when one class of citizens has wealth and power and an entirely different set of rights, opportunity, and access than everybody else.”