A prominent Missouri political scientist thinks the state governor race is the most important election in Tuesday’s primaries.

Dr Terry Smith - Photo courtesy of Columbia College

Dr Terry Smith – Photo courtesy of Columbia College

Columbia College professor Terry Smith notes the Republican contest is especially competitive because four candidates are so closely bunched together in polling.  He thinks Democratic front runner Chris Koster will easily win his primary, and will be his party’s best hope to have an influence on state government.

“The state legislature’s going to stay overwhelmingly Republican” said Smith.  “The Democrats really have their work cut out for them to make sure that the governorship stays Democratic.  Otherwise, it’ll be complete Republican control for probably the next four years at least.”

Smith thinks the four Republican candidates, who’ve run bitter campaigns against each other, must unify behind whichever one wins the primary to have a chance in the general election.

He says Eric Greitens, who’s a former Navy SEAL, has run especially aggressive ads which the other three have had to respond to.  He thinks current Lt. Governor Peter Kinder would be Koster’s toughest opponent in November.

Smith also likes former state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway as a general election Republican nominee. “Hanaway might end up being helped by (Democratic presidential nominee Hillary) Clinton in an odd way simply because there will be women who will be turning out to vote for Clinton, and they might vote for Hanaway as the female candidate for governor while they’re at it.”

Such casting of ballots would require voters to split their tickets between the two parties.  Smith said “There’s going to be ticket splitting like we maybe have never seen this year.”

Next to the governor race, Smith thinks the primary for Attorney General is one to watch.  Like the GOP race at the top of the state ballot, it’s also a toss-up.

After a bitter battle between constitutional lawyer Josh Hawley and state Senator Kurt Schafer, Smith says a lack of party unity could diminish Republican chances in a race the party would normally have a have a good shot at winning.  “They may have really hurt their chances to pick that up and make it a Republican office again.”