Onder drops out of St. Charles County executive race | Politics

JEFFERSON CITY — A term-limited state senator from St. Charles County who had launched a bid for county executive abruptly pulled out of the race on Tuesday, saying the campaign wasn’t in the “best interests” of his family.

Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake Saint Louis, who is finishing his last year in the state Senate and who has been mentioned as a possible congressional candidate in the future, announced his decision Tuesday morning.

Onder’s departure theoretically clears the way for longtime incumbent County Executive Steve Ehlmann, a Republican, to secure a fifth term in office, if he can defeat perennial candidate Arnie C. Dienoff in the Aug. 2 GOP primary. No Democrats are running for county executive.

“After lengthy discussion, reflection and prayer, my wife Allison and I have concluded that it is not in the best interests of our family that I continue the race for St. Charles County Executive,” Onder said in a Facebook post on Tuesday morning.

“I apologize to those of you who are disappointed by this decision,” Onder said. “I am deeply appreciative and will forever be grateful for your outpouring of hard work and effort in my run for County Executive. But we will continue to fight together to save this great country.”

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Onder did not immediately respond to phone messages Tuesday morning.

Ehlmann told the Post-Dispatch Tuesday morning that Onder had called him earlier that morning to notify him he was quitting the race.

“I respect him for putting his family first,” Ehlmann said. “People don’t really realize the kind of sacrifices your family has to make.”

Onder, one of the founders of the Missouri Senate’s self-styled Conservative Caucus, had cast himself as a more-conservative alternative to Ehlmann, blasting measures the county government took during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Onder had more than $250,000 in his campaign bank account at the end of March. Ehlmann had nearly $115,000 in cash on hand, according to ethics commission records.

Kurt Bahr, director of elections for St. Charles County, said Onder’s name won’t appear on the Aug. 2 ballot.

Bahr said he received a court order Monday afternoon to remove Onder from the ballot — a day before the deadline for such orders.

“I got a court order from the circuit judge yesterday afternoon,” Bahr said Tuesday.

During this past legislative session, Onder pushed for a congressional map that kept most or all of St. Charles County’s population in the same congressional district.

The final product, signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson, places about three-fourths of the county’s population in the 3rd District, held by U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth. 

Onder resides in the 3rd District, Bahr said.

He often feuded with Republicans outside the Conservative Caucus, and on Tuesday, he said he would focus this summer on making sure state Rep. Nick Schroer, R-Lake Saint Louis, replaces him in the state Senate.

In that contest, Schroer is running against House Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann, R-O’Fallon.

“In this race I have endorsed State Representative Nick Schroer,” Onder said, adding it was also “critically important” to defeat a possible ballot initiative that would institute ranked-choice voting in Missouri.

in addition to Schroer, the 100 PAC, which says it is supporting Republicans who agree to join the Conservative Caucus, is backing five other GOP candidates in open Senate races.

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