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Lucas Kunce: “Corporate, Country Club Republicans”

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Lucas Kunce: “Corporate, Country Club Republicans”

Lucas Kunce talks about his run against Josh Hawley for the 2024 Missouri Senate Seat.

Lucas is a Marine Corps veteran who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and eventually went on to become an international negotiations officer at the Pentagon. He ran for Missouri’s open Senate seat in 2022, but lost the primary to multi-millionaire Trudy Busch Valentine after her last-minute entrance into the race. She went on to lose the general by 13 points.

Lucas believes he’s the right person to take on Josh Hawley, who he refers to as a “Corporate, Country Club Republican.” Lucas is running a populist campaign that focuses on taking power out of the hands of corporate monopolies, and putting it back in the hands of working people. He refuses to take corporate donations, and instead is completely funded by small-dollar grassroots donors.

Lucas Kunce:

This race is about power. It's about taking power back for everyday Missourians, which we've been trying to do here for a long time. And again, Josh Hawley's the exact opposite.

Ken Harbaugh:

I'm Ken Harbaugh. This is Burn the Boats, a show about making tough calls in tough times. America today, faces a critical test. Our democracy is under threat, but good people are rising to the challenge. Now, is the time to go all in. Now, we burn the boats.

My guest today is Lucas Kunce, a Marine Corp veteran, running to take the Missouri Senate seat currently held by Josh Hawley. We had him on the show a little over a year ago when he was running for the Senate seat in the 2022 election, but he lost that primary to Trudy Busch Valentine, who went on to lose the general by over 13 points.

I brought him back on the show to talk about his opponent and what makes this campaign different.

Lucas, welcome to Burn the Boats.

Lucas Kunce:

Yeah. Hey, Ken. Thanks for having me, man. It's always good to be back.

Ken Harbaugh:

Hey, before we get started, did I hear that you just got married?

Lucas Kunce:

I did, yeah. Got married, very exciting. Her name's Marilyn and we're thrilled. It's going to be a fun ride. And she's brave enough to take this ride with me, which is pretty exciting. I'm not sure everybody would be.

Ken Harbaugh:

I was going to say, I am sure she is a powerful, independent person and knows what she's in for, but being along on a Senate campaign has got to be one of the toughest intros to marriage that you could possibly script.

Lucas Kunce:

Yeah, yeah, I agree. Like I said, she's a trooper. She actually went door knocking with me last fall, she's been to a bunch of events. So, she's still doing it even though she knows what she's getting into. So, it's pretty good stuff.

Ken Harbaugh:

Awesome. Well, congrats. I want to ask about how you … well, you got a lot to balance. You have a new relationship to balance with a Senate race, but you're also running in Missouri, the Show Me state where local politics and local issues are everything as they are everywhere.

But you also, in a way have to make this a national referendum. It's a nationalized race in that you got to raise a ton of money to beat someone like Josh Hawley. How do you walk that line in setting out the stakes on a national stage, but keeping the focus on issues that Missourians care about?

Lucas Kunce:

Well, the thing is that everyone hates Josh Hawley. It's not even just national. His approval rating in Missouri hovers around 40%, which I mean, Jon Tester in Montana is at 60%. So, like that's where the guy's at. People here don't know him. And if they do know him, they don't like him.

And so, my job is basically, to make sure everybody remembers what Josh Hawley is. He's a fraud, he's a coward. It's like you said, it's the Show Me state. We got to remind everybody that on January 6th, he showed everybody what he was.

The second he thought it was going to get him power, he's out there pumping his fist, inciting a crowd, everything else. But then the moment things get real, the dude's skittering out the back door as fast as he can. Like that's embarrassing. People here don't want someone who literally stands for nothing, and that's what Josh Hawley is.

Ken Harbaugh:

You launched your campaign intentionally on January 6th of this year. I worry though about the waning national attention, much less attention within your state on the events of that day.

I mean, I think every American should put that at the top of their list. It was the greatest threat to democracy this country has experienced since arguably, the Civil War. Do Missourians care enough about it though?

Lucas Kunce:

What Missourians care about is we want to be respected. And so, some people try to tap into that. East Coast liberal elites are telling us what to do, et cetera, et cetera. And what Josh Hawley does is he embarrasses us. Again, he embarrasses us in every way.

I mean, January 6th, the thing that embarrasses us is that he literally ran away from the thing that he incited like just a little bit later. Like that just shows that all he cares about is power for himself. And when all you care about is power for yourself, you're not looking out for people in the state.

People here already feel disconnected from him because he is never around. He doesn't care about us. He is one of the coastal elites basically that everybody doesn't like, which is why his rating is so low.

And so, for us, like this race is about power. It's about taking power back for everyday Missourians, which we've been trying to do here for a long time. And again, Josh Hawley's the exact opposite. Like he wants to control everybody.

I mean, you want to talk about like weird, creepy and embarrassing. He's got this book coming out on manhood and masculinity where like to be a man, he says you got to be made in his own image. Like how crazy and embarrassing is that?

Imagine the person who thinks that they need to write a book about masculinity and then the solution is to be more like them. Like it's just crazy.

And so, just to how out of touch he is, is incredible. And that's the type of January 6th, what he did then, it's just one more embarrassing thing that he did. They just stack up and after a while, people don't want that anymore.

Ken Harbaugh:

I don't know if you've ever had the chance to meet him in person. I have, and I will tell you he didn't, shall I say, exude manliness. However you want to define it, it's not Josh Hawley. Have you had the chance to meet him in person yet?

Lucas Kunce:

I haven't, but I hear that over and over again. And that's why it's so weird. I mean, look, I get it that the guy is searching for something, but like he shouldn't be searching for something with our lives. Like what gives him the right to try to discover himself by controlling all of us. He wants to control us in the bedroom, in the doctor's office, in the workplace.

It's just over and over again, everything he puts out, every policy position is about controlling our everyday lives. I'm telling you right now, man, here in Missouri, like we don't like that. We want to be able to live our own lives and not have a guy like him telling us what to do.

Ken Harbaugh:

I appreciate your full-throated defense of Missourians, but you got to convince me a little harder because the state has had a history of electing embarrassing leaders. How does someone like Josh Hawley keep climbing the rungs there? And not to mention your former governor and other Missouri statewide politicians who have brought shame to the state.

Lucas Kunce:

Yeah. Well, so, like our former governor, once people realized what he was, he was impeached by his own party. The only governor had ever be impeached by his own party. Like they did stand up and they went against him.

Josh Hawley, he's never had to run after showing everybody what he was, he's never had to. He was your typical country club corporate Republican when he was our attorney general. He was your typical country club Republican when he ran for this senate seat.

Our former senator, John Danforth was his biggest backer. You know he's kind of a legend in Missouri, an old school country club Republican, heired to the Purina fortune.

And John Danforth now, says that Josh Hawley's the worst mistake he's ever made in his whole life. Like people are turning on him in his own party, just like they turned on Eric Greitens.

And so, there's a point where we don't tolerate it anymore. He's reached that point. That's why his approval rating is in the low 40s in a red state. Like it's between like 39 and 43. That's incredible. He shouldn't be anywhere near that. And yet he is, because again, people who know him, they don't like him.

Like the Trump crowd thinks he's fake, they thinks he's phony. Like I mean, he just oozes weird creepiness. You’ve gotten to meet him in person. Everybody meets him is like, “Oh God, I don't know about that guy.”

And so, what we're going to do is we're going to point that out and we're going to point out how much he doesn't care about people. And so, I'll give you an example of a race like that in Missouri.

So, in 2016, Jason Kander, another veteran like me, he's an army guy, obviously I'm a Marine, but he was running against Roy Blunt, who was a long our long-term US Senator in the 2016 election.

And Roy Blunt had a boatload of money. He had all the money he needed, his approval rating was much higher than Hawley's is. And Jason Kander just ran ads over and over again about how Roy Blunt's wife and his three kids are corporate lobbyists and he doesn't care about Missouri.

Roy Blunt actually brought money home to Missouri, like the guy actually did stuff for Missouri and still, like when Donald Trump won by 17, Jason Kander came within three points of beating Roy Blunt because people here are tired of hacks going away and not caring about the state.

Josh Hawley has way more baggage on that than Roy Blunt ever had. And Josh Hawley's less popular than Roy Blunt was. And we don't need to close a gap 17 points anymore. Like in the last one, Trudy Busch Valentine only lost by 13 and that was against an unflawed candidate in a pretty layup race for a Republican.

So, like the fact that it was that close shows that like against a guy like Josh Hawley, we closed the Jason Kander gap, 14 points and we win. And again, Hawley's got more flaws.

Ken Harbaugh:

You're going to get a lot of pushback that tribalism today is at such a level that you're just not going to get the conversions. Especially in a state like Missouri where the Democratic brand is tainted.

How do you respond to that? Is the Democratic brand as maligned in Missouri as it is in other places? I'm saying this as an Ohioan.

Lucas Kunce:

Yeah. Well, so, Missouri's a state where people will switch their ballots all the time. Like it's a very independent streak state and we don't even have party declaration on the ballot or anything like that. If you ask people, pretty much everyone will say they're an independent and you'll see them willing to switch their boats.

Again, 14% of people switched from Donald Trump to Jason Kander in 2016. In 2018, when this Senate race was last up, Claire McCaskill lost by like five or six. And at the same time, the Democrat candidate for state auditor won by six points. So, that many people were willing to switch boats there.

We do it over and over again. Missouri has a very strong sort of populist, looking out for each other's streak. Which is what Hawley obviously, tries to do, but he comes across as so fake that if you get the real thing in place, you've got a much better alternative for people.

And they respect the history of service tradition. It really helped Jason Kander that he was an Army vet who'd been an Afghanistan. Obviously, I'm a marine vet, deployed to Iraq once and Afghanistan twice. Did arms control out of the Pentagon.

There's a cache there when I go out into rural Missouri and I say, “Hey, I'm Lucas Kunce, 13-year Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.” It's, “Thank you for your service, let's talk.” And really, like when we talk about corruption and the broken system and the way we're being left behind, people are on board and they see that Josh Hawley isn't doing anything for them.

Ken Harbaugh:

Talk about that service tradition in your own story. A couple deployments to Afghanistan, one to Iraq. Do I have that right?

Lucas Kunce:

Yeah, that's right. So, in Iraq I led a police training team 12 Marines, Navy corpsmen. And we rolled around central Iraq, Fallujah, Habbaniyah, Ramadi, a couple other places, Saqlawiyah. And trained Iraqi police up dodging IEDs, just trying to bring everybody home safe, which we did.

And then I learned Pashto and I deployed to Afghanistan as a foreign affairs officer and judge advocate. So, was on two special operations task forces doing sort of legal work and then also, the political local interaction work since I was the foreign affairs officer and knew the language.

So, I mean, watched us burn 6.4 trillion overseas and my home state fall apart. But man, I was proud to do it. And everyone here understands that service isn't about yourself. It's about serving the community. It's about serving the country. And they're appreciative of what I did.

And Missouri has a huge percentage of veterans. It's pretty high compared to other states. And we all look out and respect for each other. I'm a member of the American Legion. I go down do the karaoke night down there with Marilyn, and we have a good time. So, we're a part of the community and people respect that.

And it's something Josh Hawley never has. He's never served anybody, except himself, I guess. I think you can judge somebody by what they do when they leave school. Like Josh Hawley went to one of the fanciest corporate elite law firms in Washington DC and I joined the Marine Corps. I mean, tells you a lot about a person what they do.

Ken Harbaugh:

And that service ethic that set you on that path was instilled pretty early on, right?

Lucas Kunce:

Yeah, so-

Ken Harbaugh:

You've talked about … yeah, go ahead.

Lucas Kunce:

So, when I was a kid, we didn't have any money. We grew up in a working-class neighborhood, which is why this campaign is so hard. Boy, if I were an heir to a fortune or like Josh Hawley, my dad were a bank president, it'd probably be a lot easier.

But yeah, I mean, grew up in a working-class neighborhood. My family went bankrupt for medical bills. The only way we made it is because people in that community who had no more than we did, they passed the plate down at church for us. They brought more tuna casserole by the house than we could ever eat.

I mean, Ken, I remember sitting in our couch some nights and literally praying. I remember sitting in couch praying like, “Dear God, please let there be it lasagna tonight.” Because I was so tired of tuna casserole. And sometimes there was, but usually it was just tuna casserole.

But yeah, everybody took care of us. When I was in high school, I kept getting injured running cross country and track. My coach saw that I was getting injured … and teacher’s pay Missouri's 50th in the nation. And this guy still, when he saw my parents could only afford one pair of shoes a year, would buy me a pair of shoes secretly and just give it to me so that I wouldn't get hurt.

Like I don't know if I would've gotten into the college I went to if he hadn't done that for me so I could be all-state and captain of the team and everything. It's just the way people take care of each other.

And actually, the reason I joined the Marine Corps is because when we were younger, we used to volunteer at a soup kitchen at our church. And the guy who ran the soup kitchen, he always asked all the little kids like, “What chores do you guys want to do?”

And so, me and my little sister were always like, “Oh, we want to do the dishes, we want to do the dishes.” And this guy, he was like, “Man, what is wrong with these kids? Why do they always want to do the dishes? Nobody wants to do the dishes.”

But at the church kitchen, they had a dishwasher. So, we thought we were just scamming this guy. Like we just take the dishes, throw them in the machine and walk away. We're like, “Huh, this guy thinks we're doing a chore, man, we don't even have to do anything.”

And he figured that out. And like a couple years later when he remodeled his kitchen, he took the time to take his old dishwasher out, put it in his truck, bring it by our house, and have someone install it for us, so we could have that.

Like that is a true thing where like — that's what real service is. You don't expect anything from anybody. You do it even though it's a pain in the rear for you and you just do it for somebody else because it's the right thing to do.

Now, that man was a United States Marine officer in Vietnam, and he would take me down to the Marine Corps League in Apache Flats, Missouri. And I would meet these guys who did the same thing for their community, who took care of each other.

And just listening to them, watching them, seeing what they did for their community and the service they did was inspirational for me. And it led me to join the Marine Corps and do everything that I did.

Ken Harbaugh:

I didn't realize you were a runner as well. It makes the launch ad that you put out all the more hilarious. Was that inspired at all by your history as a varsity track star?

Lucas Kunce:

Yeah, yeah, kind of actually. And so, we got some more things in the can that are going to be fun with comparison on him running and not. The team actually asked me if I wanted to be the stunt double for him. I was like, “No, man, I will never, ever be Josh Hawley.”

Ken Harbaugh:

I wanted to ask that as sort of having been on the inside of campaigns. Who drew that short straw having to run like they imagined Josh Hawley would run? Was that some poor campaign staffer?

Lucas Kunce:

No, no. It was actually just a friend of a guy who is on the campaign. Yeah, my political director has a friend who actually ran in high school and he was like, “You know what? He's like the right height and kind of has the same hair. I think he could do it.”

And when he asked him he was like, “Oh yeah, I hate Josh Hawley. He's such a fraud. I'll do it.” And so, he came in. I thought he did a really good job too.

Ken Harbaugh:

Yeah, me too. It's convincing. What was the reaction in Missouri to that ad? I mean, nationally, it was over the top. People loved it or hated it, as I'm sure you were going for. How did Josh Hawley’s constituents respond to it?

Lucas Kunce:

Oh, I mean, we got great reactions. The true believers in him all think that it was terrible. And independents and Democrats are like, “Yeah, that's exactly right. The dude is a fraud and a coward.” And so, I think it shows just how much Josh Hawley and the national Republicans are worried about him.

And then they immediately started attacking me and they immediately started coming after us because they know that he's got weak numbers and that my contrast against him is very, very strong. And the more Missourians learn about Josh Hawley and the way he grew up, the way he's treated people, and the things he's done, the stronger and stronger we get.

And they can see his numbers, they know his numbers. Like I'm the only person they're attacking right now. They're putting out videos against me, dude. They're doing all sorts of stuff. And it's pretty wild. Because Missouri is the Democrat's best pickup opportunity and the best chance for Republicans to lose one.

So, it's wild to see national Republican investment against us this early. I mean, they're like cutting videos and stuff. It's pretty crazy.

Ken Harbaugh:

Yeah. Alright. We're going to get tactical for a second. Are there other Dems in the race? How are you expecting the primary to play out?

Lucas Kunce:

No, there's nobody else in the race. I think like last time, we pretty much cleared the field and then billionaire beer heiress jumps in the last day. There's nothing really you can do about that. She put an op-ed in the KC Star saying that she's proud she paved the way for the next person though.

So, I think that was nice. She encouraged me on the campaign trail. I helped her out afterwards to run for this. And so, I need sort of the big-

Ken Harbaugh:

I think that's an important point, Lucas. After you lost to her in the primary, you stepped up and you fought for her. Right?

Lucas Kunce:

Yeah, I did. I mean, I felt like she would represent us better and be a better senator than the other guy. And so, yeah, I mean, I'm not like a prideful jerk. And so, if I think that she should win, I went ahead, I campaigned with her a lot. I went across the state for her and surrogated for her, so.

And so, yeah, it didn't work out. But I also, knocked a bunch of doors for state rep candidates in the state who actually won. Again, like Missouri, we picked up, it was like five or six seats in the state house this go around. Like we have hit rock bottom and people are just tired of the craziness and they're tired of the nonsense.

And so, I mean, you see that on ballot measures too. Like we passed recreational marijuana on the ballot measure this time. We're also the only state in the entire union that's overturned the anti-union right to work. We did that 68 to 32%.

We passed a minimum wage, $5 over the federal level, which is pretty crazy that we did that here in Missouri. We expanded Medicaid over the legislature. We've done a lot of things like that.

And so, people have been trying to claw back power. And Josh Hawley's just really the — like when I talk about him trying to control everybody and worried about power for himself. Like he's just such a lightning rod for the people who just have been trying to claw back power for themselves as opposed to other Republicans like Roy Blunt or even Josh Hawley in 2018.

Where they just like, “Well, he's just a normal Republican. Like this guy is the antithesis of what everybody wants.” And he was against every single one of those too.

Ken Harbaugh:

You're beginning to convince me, especially when you run down the litany of ballot measures or other issues in the legislature that have taken on a populist like flavor. How has the Dobbs decision been received in Missouri? Because right next door in Kansas, there was an resounding defeat for the extremists on the right, correct?

Lucas Kunce:

Yeah, it's been received the same way. As a candidate, I can't be a part of it, but there's a coalition of people who are working on putting a ballot measure on for 2024 to protect access to abortion. And so, it's just the extremism of it is crazy. Like we were the first state to ban it under all circumstances. No rape, no incest exception, no exceptions, period.

And again, it's just the control over people's lives, the lack of freedom, and just the extremism of it, is too much for most people. I think that that ballot measure is going to pass here and it's going to be a big boon for those of us who are running on the right side of that.

Ken Harbaugh:

This is going to be an incredibly expensive campaign. Can you talk about the difference in how you're approaching that versus Josh Hawley?

Lucas Kunce:

Yeah. Well, I mean, I can't really talk about him, but the way that I can talk about it for me, well, I mean, he started his career, he got like $4 million from like a Joplin zillionaire in Missouri. That's how he got launched. And he corrupted himself very early.

One of the things that I wanted to make sure in my first campaign and going forward is that I never do that. I only want to take money from everyday people. I'm not taking money from fossil fuel executives, no big firm executives, no corporate packs, no federal lobbyists. We got a pretty long list. I think it's actually probably the tightest list in the entire country.

And so, what we do is I want to make sure I only owe people like those in my old neighborhood who took care of my family when we went bankrupt, so that when I'm in Congress, I only represent them. I don't own any individual stocks because I don't want to make decisions or policy based on a stock portfolio, which a lot of members of Congress are doing on both sides.

And so, for me, we have a very grassroots campaign. We raise our money in mostly small dollar donations. Our average donation’s like 30 something dollars. And we actually on the first day of this election, in the first week of the election, we raised more than any Missouri statewide candidate, Republican or Democrat, in the history of the state has ever done.

And so, for a guy like me who had, again, no political collect connections, was in the Marine Corps my entire career up to the last run, no like family wealth, we're trying to pave a path to show how other people can do the same thing.

Because I think that the biggest threat to our democracy is the money that's being thrown into it, the people who have control over our politicians, the way that our politicians make decisions not for the people they're supposed to represent, but for everybody else.

So, we've stayed true to that. It was hard, a lot of people told us we were crazy that first campaign. We actually, obviously, we lost that first campaign to a billionaire. And so, well, one thing I'm really proud of though is everyone who was there for us before is still there. Kind of the big movement we had behind us is still there. It's how we were able to raise so much at the beginning and the path forward looks good on that.

One thing we'll say though about the expense of the race is Missouri's actually really cheap compared to other states. And so, like in Florida last cycle, the Democrats spent, I think it was like a $100 million on that race to lose by 17.

Well, when Jason Kander came within three points, he only had 13 million. He spent 13 million in that campaign. You can run a campaign in Missouri for 20 million and you have TV saturation and you're doing get out the vote.

So, as far as strategic investment of Democrat dollars, basically the three options are Missouri, Texas, and Florida. Florida numbers are worse and will cost you a $100 million. Texas numbers has been about the same, they now cost about a $100 million. Missouri numbers look good, Josh Hawley is a villain and you can do it for a 1/5th of the price.

So, it's a pretty cool scenario where everything just kind of comes together for us because we don't have any big TV markets.

Ken Harbaugh:

Yeah, I know you're talking to the donor class right now, but it's-

Lucas Kunce:

That's right. Send us some money, folks. This is where it needs to come.

Ken Harbaugh:

It's still crazy that our political system depends so much on money in the amounts we're talking about to-

Lucas Kunce:

It is crazy. I mean, 20 million is still mind blowing to me, right?

Ken Harbaugh:

Yeah. Having-

Lucas Kunce:

But at least it's not 100 million.

Ken Harbaugh:

Having run a nonprofit, what we could have done with a fraction of that is-

Lucas Kunce:

I know.

Ken Harbaugh:

It's a little frustrating. But I know you get that. I love the grassroots approach. A lot of commentary is referred to you as a populist. Do you own that label?

Lucas Kunce:

Yes. I'm trying to take that label. Look, what I'm tired of is these fakers like Josh Hawley taking the label of populace. Like a populist to me, we have a great tradition of that here in Missouri and across the Plains. A Plains populist was like a real thing. And Harry Truman was a populist.

It's about taking power back for everyday people against a corrupted system that's not working for them. I mean, that's exactly what I'm doing by taking grassroots money, not taking corporate PAC money, no federal lobbyist money. Like that's real populism.

Josh Hawley doesn't have populism. Josh Hawley has all — again, it's just about power for himself, not power for everyday people. He tries to divide us in order to increase his power. And he makes decisions that work for him and not for the rest of us. He's about controlling us.

Like populism isn't about controlling everybody and dividing them. It's about empowering us to make decisions for ourselves. And what I've seen in my entire life is Missourians making real good decisions for themselves in their own personal lives and the way that we're able to take care of each other.

I mentioned the guy with the dishwasher, my coach buying me a pair of shoes, the guys down at the American Legion. I remember yeah, I mean, I could just give you story after story, but I tell you what, every man I look at, none of them was anything like Josh Hawley. So, just the fact that he would have this fake populism and his manhood book and everything else, like it's creepy.

And so, for me, I own that label. I think we need to take it back because populism's a good thing. Populism is about empowering everyday people. It's not about dividing and conquering.

Ken Harbaugh:

What's the biggest pushback you're getting from fellow Dems, especially within (I'll put it in air quotes) “the Democratic establishment” whether related to that populism label or not?

Lucas Kunce:

Yeah. I mean, some people don't like that label. Others think that we should take that label back and they are tired of frauds having it. And they're tired of the media labeling people like Josh Hawley. Like the guy should just be labeled corrupt, creepy, weird, gross. Like why I give him this title of populace, that doesn't make sense.

And so, actually, we haven't been getting any pushback this campaign. Last campaign I was new. Not a lot of people knew who I was. And so, we had to sort of meet everybody and help them adjust to who I am, my story, where I came from, understand my record of service.

And I think we were able to do that last time and I haven't really seen any pushback this time. I mean, we got all sorts of people retweeting us and I think we're building a very strong coalition to try to take back places like Missouri and also, take back labels like populism away from these fakers.

Ken Harbaugh:

I'm sure you're running into a ton of Republicans out there on the campaign trail. Can you share a story or two about a conversion experience talking? I'll put you in the American Legion Hall or the VFW post surrounded by grizzled old vets, a lot of whom are pretty conservative, pretty deep red Republican.

How are they responding to you as a populist Marine Corp veteran and are you winning any of them over?

Lucas Kunce:

Yeah. And so, the stories aren't like sexy. It's just like hanging out with guys or women or whatever. I say guys, it's like both. Just talking, being myself and they're like, “Yeah, I like you. You're a good guy. I don't know anything. I don't know this Hawley guy. I'm definitely going to vote for you.” Some people be like, “He's a jerk.”

In general, it's interesting. Most conversions I guess you would call it, they're not really policy based. So, it's not like I go in there and I'm like, “Oh, I'm for this,” and suddenly they're on board. It's, “We love your record of service. We love what you've done for the country. You remind me of someone who I can relate to.”

People really understand that most of us live paycheck to paycheck and one disaster from bankruptcy, and they want someone who understands that representing them.

And so, when I talk about how my family went bankrupt for medical bills and how everybody passed the plate for us, like everybody in Missouri has been a part of that on one side or the other. They've either needed the help or they've been there bringing tuna casserole wherever by somebody's house.

And so, it's just stories like that that people can relate to that win most folks over. People ask all the time, “What's the silver bullet? What's the — like what policy?” And it's like, “The policies are great.” My policies are definitely like top-bottom centered, not left-right centered. And what I think that does though is that that makes people open to the conversion.

I don't think it actually converts people. I think what actually converts people is the door's got to be opened like that. They got to not like Josh Hawley, which most of them are in that boat, or they just don't care. And then they have to like me.

So, I don't want to say it's a vibes-based boating, but that's what it is. And I think that's how Jason did so well in 2016. It's how Beto did so well against Ted Cruz several years ago. And it's how we're going to do against Josh Hawley.

Ken Harbaugh:

I hope you're right. I hope we can get back to a character driven politics where you at least create space to talk about your policies. And even if someone disagrees with you on something as important as abortion, they believe in you as a person enough to listen. I'm not convinced given how partisan we are. But I hope you're right on that.

One last question. Do you think you'll get a debate with Josh Hawley?

Lucas Kunce:

Well, I don't know. I mean, I think that the strategy or actually the reality of him seeing that everybody does think he's a coward, may just be enough to push him to do that. Traditionally, someone like him wouldn't debate, but he was harassing Claire McCaskill in 2018 the whole time for not debating. So, he's going to be a real pickle on that one.

And if he doesn't, it's such like a heavy … it leans into everything that we say so strongly that I think he's going to have to. It's going to cost him a lot if he doesn't.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, that's what I was thinking. And man, either way the trap is sprung. I would love to see you and Josh Hawley on a debate stage together. I wouldn't be surprised if something like that gets national attention.

Lucas Kunce:

Oh yeah. I mean, he's in the hordes of a dilemma, which is exactly where we want him.

Ken Harbaugh:

Yep. Well, hey, Lucas, it's been great having you. My hope is we have you back in a couple of years for a victory interview.

Lucas Kunce:

That'd be great, Ken. Looking forward to it, man. Thanks for having me again.

Ken Harbaugh:

You got it. Thanks, Lucas.

Lucas Kunce:


Ken Harbaugh:

Thanks again to Lucas for joining me. You can follow him on Twitter @LucasKunceMO and visit if you'd like to learn more about his campaign.

Thanks for listening to Burn the Boats. If you have any feedback, please email the team at [email protected]. We're always looking to improve the show.

For updates and more, follow us on Twitter @Team_Harbaugh. And if you enjoy this episode, don't forget to rate and review.

Burn the Boats is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. Our producer is Declan Rohrs and Sean Rule-Hoffman, is our audio engineer. Special thanks to Evergreen executive producers Joan Andrews, Michael DeAloia and David Moss.

I'm Ken Harbaugh, and this is Burn the Boats, a podcast about big decisions.

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