Marine veteran Lucas Kunce announced Friday that he plans to challenge Republican Josh Hawley in the 2024 race for U.S. Senate in Missouri.
Kunce, 40, chose the second anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection to make his announcement. Hawley received fierce criticism for his actions on the day of the insurrection, from pumping his fist at in support of protesters before a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol to his decision to contest President Joe Biden’s victory after the riot was quelled.
In a video posted to social media announcing his campaign, Kunce highlights the fist pump, as well as video of Hawley running through the Capitol fleeing the violent, pro-Trump mob.
“On Jan. 6, 2021, Josh Hawley showed us he’s a fraud and a coward,” Kunce said in announcing his campaign. “Missourians deserve a U.S. Senator who’s willing to stand and fight. That’s why I’ve decided to take him on.”
Hawley has defended his actions on that day, arguing in an op-ed that he was trying to “have a debate on the issue of election integrity.” He even began raising money using the image of the fist pump.
Kunce ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate last year, finishing a close second to Anheuser-Busch heiress Trudy Busch Valentine.
During the race Kunce’s populist style and Ivy League résumé won him national attention, including profiles in the Washington Post Magazine and POLITICO and appearances and spots on MSNBC and FOX News.
And until Valentine joined the race and began pouring her own fortune into the campaign, Kunce raised more money than any other candidate — Republican or Democrat — despite a refusal to accept donations from pharmaceutical executives, corporate political action committees and federal lobbyists.
All told, Kunce managed to raise nearly $6 million.
Now he’s hoping a populist message and small-dollar donors that fueled his 2022 campaign will help him topple Hawley in a state that has just elected Republican Eric Schmitt to the U.S. Senate by 13 percentage points. President Joe Biden lost Missouri by 15 percentage points in 2020.
“When things get tough, Missourians deserve someone who will stand up for them, not run for the nearest exit,” Kunce said. “Our politicians have betrayed Missouri. They’ve forgotten that their job is not only to defend our democracy, but also to fight for the people in it.”
Kunce grew up in Jefferson City and is a graduate of Yale University and the University of Missouri Law School. He currently lives in Independence and works for the American Economic Liberties Project, a think tank that according to its website works to “challenge monopolies’ dominance over markets and society.”
Hawley was elected Missouri attorney general in 2016. He launched his bid for the U.S. Senate a year later, eventually beating Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill 51% to 45%.
Last year, Hawley endorsed U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler in the GOP Senate primary. She went on to lose to Schmitt by more than 20 percentage points.He is currently writing a book called “Manhood” that argues “a republic depends on certain masculine virtues.”
“We welcome this desperate woke activist to yet another political race,” said Kyle Plotkin, Hawley’s campaign spokesman. “He just barely finished losing his last one. Maybe he’s running in the wrong state.”
Mike Berg, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, called Kunce an “unhinged liberal” who will “grift millions from coastal elites, then lose. Just like when he ran last election.”