- The Washington Times - Friday, February 3, 2023

Democrat Lucas Kunce will run against Sen. Josh Hawley next year, painting the conservative lawmaker as being “out of touch” with Missourians.

Mr. Kunce, who ran a failed Senate bid last year, is trying to distinguish himself from Mr. Hawley by appealing to working-class voters.

“I’m a normal guy, so it’s a long haul for us to get elected, but in Missouri, that’s what we need,” said Mr. Kunce, whose Ivy League credentials include degrees from Yale University and Columbia University.

Mr. Kunce said he is running a “populist” campaign that puts people over power, rather than the other way around. 

He called Mr. Hawley a “fake populist,” accusing him of supporting corporate judges and being disengaged with everyday Missourians.

Mr. Hawley’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Kunce has been accused of faking a southern drawl for his new Senate campaign. The Washington Free Beacon recently documented Mr. Kunce’s new accent by comparing video clips from before and after his Jan. 6 campaign launch. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has been circulating the video clips.

The Kunce campaign said his accent is authentic Missourian.

Josh Hawley is literally mad at Lucas for sounding like a man from Missouri,” said Connor Lounsbury, a senior adviser to Mr. Kunce.

Mr. Kunce is a Marine veteran and previously worked as director of national security policy at the anti-monopoly organization American Economic Liberties Project. He is returning to the campaign trail after losing in a crowded Democratic Senate primary last year. The seat ultimately went to Eric Schmitt, a Republican.

Mr. Kunce again faces an uphill climb to get to the Senate.

His campaign platform includes vows to crack down on Big Tech companies, expand federal abortion rights and stop Washington lawmakers from trading stocks.

Once a key presidential swing state, Missouri is a reliably Republican state that’s grown increasingly conservative.

Mr. Hawley remains popular among voters, even after he became a top target for Democrats over his actions related to the 2021 Capitol riot. Mr. Hawley became infamous over a photo of him raising his fist at rioters and later voted against certifying the 2020 election.

While his approval rating among his constituents dipped slightly after the event, he was back up over 50% last summer.

Mr. Kunce, who announced his campaign on the second anniversary of Jan. 6, said while the Capitol riot is far from being top of mind for voters, Mr. Hawley embarrassed the state.

The candidate has also raged against Mr. Hawley’s stance on culture wars, including on abortion and masculinity.

Mr. Hawley has most recently warned of the attack on masculinity in American culture, which is the subject of his new book coming out in May.

“To tell everyone they’re not a man if they play video games …it’s gross and it really shows what a pampered lifestyle he has,” Mr. Kunce said.

Asked about his chances of winning in a red state, Mr. Kunce pushed back on the idea that Missouri is broadly conservative.

“I don’t think this is a red state,” Mr. Kunce said. “This is a very populous state, and people are tired of phonies like Hawley pretending to be populous.”

• Mica Soellner can be reached at msoellner@washingtontimes.com.

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