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Ashcroft avoids official campaign announcement, highlights rival's negatives

The Missouri Secretary of State is widely expected to run for Governor in the 2024 GOP primary against Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe.

ST. LOUIS — Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft appeared on The Record on Thursday and danced around questions about his political ambitions.

Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe previously announced his intention to seek the governor's office in 2024. State Senator Bill Eigel has also expressed interest in the job and began launching digital ads attacking Kehoe and Ashcroft. 

During a press conference in St. Louis on Thursday afternoon, incumbent Governor Mike Parson said, "I got confidence in [Kehoe] to be a statewide candidate," but stopped short of issuing a concrete endorsement. 

"I think the people of the state will make a great decision," Ashcroft replied. "If they choose Mike Kehoe, I think he'll lead the state in a good direction."

Ashcroft sidestepped a question about whether he hoped voters pick him instead.

"I'm just going to trust the people of the state right now," he said. "I'm focused on doing a good job for them. I have a full-time job working on legislation. I'm going to do what needs to be done and we'll see what happens."

The secretary of state's office, which primarily deals with elections and libraries, has recently published press releases highlighting legislative proposals he feels have merit. In one case, his office pushed a proposal that would "restrict foreign businesses or persons from owning more than one-half of one percent of the total acreage of agricultural land in the state."

Current law allows foreign companies to purchase up to one percent of Missouri farmland. Ashcroft using his public office to put a spotlight on the controversial policy could have political implications since it underscores Kehoe's vote to approve the current law which is now facing scrutiny. 

Ashcroft said he likely wasn't aware the vote was taking place back in 2013 while he was still in private practice, and said he only recently realized the law should change to curb Chinese companies from buying up American agricultural resources. 

"During Covid when we saw that there were grocery store shelves running out of meat, we saw meat that was being shipped overseas," Ashcroft said. "I think China really shipped Covid here by allowing travel to the United States but not within their country, and they shipped our meat and our food to China. That's a problem."

The Secretary of State also broke with Kehoe on sales and gas tax increases and said he would've voted differently. 

"No, we didn't need that," Ashcroft said. "I was a vocal, one of the main vocal proponents against the gas tax that just came up a couple of years ago. We had $2 billion sitting in the bank. We didn't know what to do with it. I said there's no reason to raise taxes when we have money we don't know how to spend it. Now we raised those taxes and we have an even greater surplus. We need to let the people be in control of how their money is spent."

Ashcroft also dabbled in national politics, declaring his support for a state-mandated disclaimer on any investment advisor that subscribes to ESG, or environmental, social and corporate governance principles.

"We just want to make sure people know what they're getting," Ashcroft said. 

Republicans on Capitol Hill have recently taken to criticizing the socially-conscious investment strategies, labeling sustainable, clean-energy investment approaches as "woke." Ashcroft's office said financial advisors should be "purely focused on generating profit for their clients."

"I think there are a lot of concerns that investors are being misled about what's being done with their dollars," he said. "We put out an anti-ESG rule, which is really not anti-ESG. It's anti-fraud. We believe an investment advisor should let you know what you're investments are going to, and if they're making advice, it should be for the best financial return."

A spokesman for Kehoe has not yet responded to requests for comment. 

You can watch the full episode of The Record on YouTube or with the video player below:

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