A political scientist at the University of Missouri says despite some setbacks this year, retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield can be expected to remain a dominant force in state politics for years to come.
Many political analysts agree that Sinquefield has suffered several defeats this year, all of which cost him money.
In four state House races he backed Republicans who were running against representatives that didn’t vote to override the veto of a tax cut bill he wanted. Those incumbents won. He also backed incumbent St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, but Dooley lost in his primary race.
An effort by a public relations firm to solicit some of Missouri’s political reporters to write paid-for articles for Sinquefield-backed political action committee Grow Missouri was recently brought to light.
Next month, Missourians will vote on Constitutional Amendment 3, to change teacher evaluations and eliminate tenure. Sinquefield backed the group that succeeded in getting it on the ballot, but that group has now pulled support for Amendment 3 due to poor polling, so essentially there is no one campaigning for the issue while numerous efforts against it are ongoing.
“He’s had a few stumbles,” says University of Missouri Professor Peverill Squire. “Certainly this whole affair with trying to influence political writers in the state … that’s a faux pas and whether he was responsible for it or just got bad advice, bad people working for him, that’s going to work against him.”
“But, I think for the most part he really has a strong set of policy ideas and that’s really what he wants to promote, and there will be some stumbles along the way,” adds Squire. “But again, I see him as being fairly tenacious. I don’t think he’s a dilettante at this. I think he’s planning on being a player in Missouri politics for a long time.”
Squire says many of what could be seen as defeats for Sinquefield have come on very difficult issues to take on.
“It’s hard to defeat incumbents. It’s hard to get a lot of people motivated to turn out for primary elections. So, I don’t think it’s surprising that he’s lost,” says Squire, but he doesn’t think Sinquefield’s attempts have gone without impact. “His efforts have probably made a lot of other incumbents more concerned about having to run against a primary challenger in the future, and so a little less likely to oppose him unless they really think it’s really in their interest to do so.”
Squire also thinks Republicans will continue to accept or even seek Sinquefield’s support.
“He just has so much in the way of financial resources that it would be hard for them to find anyone who could replace even half of what he’s able to contribute,” says Squire. “The problem for them is, of course, is that sometimes he wants to talk about things that they don’t want to talk about, and there are occasions where his agenda diverges from most Republicans probably would prefer to pursue.”
“He’s a little bit of a wild cannon for them, but for the most part I think they’re glad to have him on their side,” Squire adds.