A powerful behind-the-scenes operator for the Republican Party has become a Democrat and has entered a state senate race against the man he used to advise.
Republican House Speaker Rod Jetton (R-Marble Hill) says the switch made by his former Chief of Staff, Chris Benjamin, came as a huge shock. Jetton says, “I’m confused. I’m disappointed and saddened, because I know we just have a confused young guy who really is not probably making the best decisions right now.”
Benjamin denies he’s a “confused young guy”. Benjamin tells the Missourinet “I have the same stances on the issues as I’ve always had.” He says he’s always backed issues he likes regardless of Republican or Democratic labels.
Perhaps even more shocked than Jetton is Republican Representative David Pearce of Warrensburg. Benjamin had served as his voluntary campaign manager in his state senate race for nine months until becoming a Democrat and filing to run against him. Pearce says Benjamin knows a great deal about his campaign strategy and how he expects to run his race for the 31 st Senatorial district. Pearce calls Benjamin’s switch “a broken trust”.
Benjamin vows to keep all confidences made during discussion of the senate campaign. Benjamin, who is a lawyer, says he views his work with Pearce on the campaign the same as a lawyer would view work with a client.
There is even more intrigue to this change of party loyalties. Benjamin, who is from Freeman, will run for the Senate seat now occupied by Sen. Chris Koster (D-Harrisonville). Koster earlier switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party. Benjamin says his announcement was not coordinated with Koster. Still, Koster has endorsed Benjamin.
Pearce rejects any suggestion that the switch of the two Republicans sends a message to the party. He sees both as done for political expediency.
As Pearce puts it, “They both had an epiphany right before it was time to announce for an office.”