Kurt Schaefer Was "A Very Moderate Candidate" But Now He's Trying to Win a GOP Primary

Once upon a time, Senator Kurt Schaefer described himself as "a very moderate candidate." He said he supported expanding Medicaid eligibility to 100% of the Federal Poverty Level.  His re-election to the Senate to represent Boone and Cooper Counties was all about “putting politics aside” and bipartisanship. As the National Review notes, Schaefer told voters in 2012 that “he supports ‘the status quo that we have right now’” on abortion laws. Henry J. Waters II of The Columbia Daily Tribune, a Schaefer fan, wrote in 2013 that the Senator was “a moderate, even liberal, friend of the [University of Missouri] and other causes of interest to Central Missouri.” Schaefer even “sought the support of the 13th Circuit Democratic Committee for nomination to an open judicial seat” in 2002.

Here’s Schaefer, in his own words:

And here’s a mailer Schaefer’s campaign sent in 2012:

But since his 2012 re-election, Kurt Schaefer has decided to seek the GOP nomination for Attorney General. And to win over Todd Akin voters, the former “very moderate” — “even liberal” — Republican Senator has attempted to remake himself as an extremely conservative firebrand. His primary opponent in the race, Josh Hawley, appears to have always been such a conservative. Now, Schaefer “often wanders into uninformed, near-hysterical verbiage.”

Here’s how Waters described the transformation in 2013:

A textbook example of this phenomenon [running to the right in a competitive GOP primary] is the evolving politics of Sen. Kurt Schaefer. He was elected in a traditionally Democratic district and served two terms as a moderate, even liberal, friend of the university and other causes of interest to Central Missouri. All of a sudden his electoral interest shifted statewide, and the change in his apparent philosophy could not have been more dramatic. Today he could not be elected from this district. He is trying to move to the right far enough to win a Republican primary for state attorney general. He can barely see Boone County in his rearview mirror.

Waters maintains that Schaefer doesn’t mean what he says, and that he doesn’t really believe in his now-extreme positions. We are to plan ahead for ‘ignoring’ his extreme comments and actions, no matter who is hurt by his grandstanding or refusal to act in the best interest of his constituents. Waters, writing in August 2015:

If you’re a Schaefer fan like I am, you have to give him a lot of slack for pre-primary comments that must later be ignored in his general election campaign. I think Kurt Schaefer could mount an effective campaign for attorney general without these excesses. My Democrat friends say I give him too much slack, that Schaefer is much more of a right-wing ideologue than I reckon he is.

His predicament illustrates clearly what’s wrong with today’s Republican Party. Does it also bring forth a disturbing cant in his personal beliefs? With a guy this talented, I like to give benefit of doubt. As his campaign unfolds, I’ll be looking for evidence to support my — naïve? — belief in the real Kurt Schaefer.

Schaefer’s transformation is transparent for all to see. Here’s Richard Callow of St. Louis, in July:

Waters and Callow are too forgiving, however. Schaefer’s stubborn obstruction to Medicaid expansion -- lost lives, lost economic opportunity, facts and previous positions be damned -- has been a disaster for the families of Missouri, and cannot be ignored just because the Senator used to be less awful. Same goes for Schaefer’s poorly-crafted Amendment 5, and his refusal to deal with the very predictable consequences of the measure.

If only Schaefer could have remained the bipartisan, moderate he once claimed to be. And once was.

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