In recent years, Lucas Kunce has emerged as a rising progressive political figure in Missouri politics. Kunce gained prominence through his underdog campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2022, in which his populist messaging garnered significant grassroots support. Although he ultimately lost in the Democratic primary, Kunce’s strong showing established him as someone to watch for the future. Now Kunce has his eyes set on another Senate run in 2024.
Kunce’s biography provides insight into his populist brand of politics that emphasizes taking on corruption and fighting for the working class. His background as a Marine and experience in national security shapes his perspectives on foreign policy issues. An examination of his recent campaigns demonstrates Kunce’s bold progressive stances and focus on grassroots mobilization. As Kunce potentially gears up for another statewide race, his blend of biography, ideology, and organizing approach offers Democrats an intriguing option.
Background and Early Life
Birth and childhood
Lucas Kunce was born in 1982 and raised in Jefferson City, Missouri. He grew up in a working-class family, a background that would later inform his populist political messaging. Kunce has recalled his modest upbringing which shaped his views on economic issues impacting everyday Americans.
After high school, Kunce attended college at the University of Missouri in Columbia where he graduated in 2006 with a degree in history and political science. He was involved with the school’s ROTC program during this time in preparation for his military career.
Prior to his military service, Kunce worked various jobs as a student and after college including as a hotel clerk and as a legislative aide in the Missouri State Capitol. These early work experiences of supporting himself through blue-collar jobs also influenced his populist perspectives.
Enlistment and training
In 2006, Kunce enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from college. He attended The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico for officer training.
Deployments and experience
Over 13 years in the Marines, Kunce was deployed overseas multiple times. He spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan, serving in intelligence and strategic planning roles. Kunce also spent time analyzing terrorist groups throughout Africa.
Leadership roles and achievements
Kunce earned the rank of Major during his Marine Corps career. His leadership positions included Strategic Initiatives Officer at U.S. Central Command and Strategic Plans Chief for NATO’s southern flank. Kunce received numerous honors for his military service.
Entry into Politics
Motivations for running
After leaving the military in 2020, Kunce became motivated to enter politics out of frustrations with the state of the country after 20 years of the War on Terror. He felt economic struggles of the working class were being ignored while corruption infected the political system. Kunce decided to try to make an impact through elected office.
In 2020, Kunce made his first bid for elected office when he ran for a state senate seat in Missouri. Although he lost that race, it gave him valuable campaign experience that he would build on.
Positions and messaging
As a candidate, Kunce emphasized economic populism and taking on political corruption. He advocated for higher wages, empowering unions, and revitalizing domestic manufacturing. Kunce blended his biography with a bold progressive platform.
A hallmark of Kunce’s approach has been grassroots mobilization. He has relied on small dollar donations and an army of energized volunteers to spread his populist message. Kunce developed a strong social media presence to attract support.
2022 Senate Campaign
In 2021, Kunce entered the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Missouri. Running as an outsider, Kunce touted his working class roots and military service. His campaign focused on grassroots support rather than establishment backing. Kunce ultimately finished second in the 11-candidate field.
General election campaign
Although he lost the primary, Kunce’s strong performance made him a rising figure in progressive politics. He earned praise for his populist rhetoric and engaging social media presence. Kunce campaigned vigorously for the Democratic nominee in the general election.
Campaign themes and messaging
Kunce’s core themes included taking on corporate monopolies, rebuilding unions, establishing a “Marshall Plan for Middle America” to revitalize manufacturing, and increasing wages. He criticized trade deals that hurt American workers. Kunce vowed to only accept small dollar donations.
Kunce was endorsed by several progressive organizations and leaders including MoveOn, People’s Action, and former Ohio state senator Nina Turner. He attracted support with his anti-establishment populism.
Kunce finished second in the primary behind eventual nominee Trudy Busch Valentine, capturing 38% of the vote in the crowded Democratic field. His strong grassroots support established Kunce as a force for the future.
2024 Senate Campaign
Shortly after the 2022 election, Kunce announced he would again run for U.S. Senate in 2024. He filed paperwork establishing his candidacy to challenge incumbent Republican Senator Josh Hawley.
Kunce is expected to campaign on the same populist platform that nearly propelled him to victory in 2022. He will again rely on small dollar donations and organizing support. The Democratic primary field remains uncertain this far out.
Kunce could potentially face establishment-backed Democratic candidates who may try to blunt his outsider populist appeal. Republicans are likely to portray Kunce as too extreme. But his biography and charisma make him a formidable contender.
Possible campaign themes
While Kunce has not fully outlined his 2024 messaging yet, he will likely continue emphasizing economic populism, revitalizing domestic manufacturing, taking on monopolies, increasing union power, and anti-corruption reforms. His veteran status will also be part of his appeal.
Kunce supports increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, strengthening union rights and collective bargaining power for workers, renegotiating trade deals that have incentivized offshoring of jobs, and cracking down on monopolistic corporations. His manufacturing-focused “Marshall Plan for Middle America” aims to revitalize the industrial base of states like Missouri through targeted investments and incentives.
Foreign policy and defense
Drawing on his military experience, Kunce supports withdrawing most U.S. troops from overseas conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan. He wants to end “forever wars” and stop the spread of global terrorism through better resourced intelligence operations and strategic partnerships. Kunce believes in maintaining a strong national defense.
Kunce supports universal healthcare through an expanded public option or Medicare for All system. He wants to reduce prescription drug prices through government negotiations and re-importation. Kunce aims to improve rural healthcare access and fund treatment for mental health and addiction.
Climate and environment
Kunce advocates transitioning to 100% clean energy by 2035 to fight climate change while creating domestic jobs. He supports tax incentives for renewable energy investments, particularly in wind and solar. Kunce wants stricter regulations on industrial polluters and protections for clean air and water.
Kunce is pro-choice on abortion access and supports marriage equality for LGBTQ couples. He aims to protect voting rights through federal legislation and safeguard civil liberties for minority groups. Kunce wants responsible policing reforms and targeted investments to reduce community violence.
Kunce currently resides in Jefferson City, Missouri with his wife and two daughters. His brother was killed by gun violence, leading Kunce to become an advocate for community investment to reduce crime and provide opportunity. Outside of politics, he enjoys coaching youth sports teams. Kunce continues to draw insights from his working-class upbringing as he campaigns statewide in Missouri.
In conclusion, Lucas Kunce represents a new generation of progressive populists who aim to shake up establishment politics. His unique biography, including his working-class roots and military service, shape his focus on empowering the middle class. Kunce will attempt to build on his surprising momentum from the 2022 Senate primary as he wages another statewide campaign in 2024. His sharp outsider message and grassroots mobilization approach make Kunce a rising figure within not just Missouri, but national Democratic politics broadly. As Kunce gears up for another Senate run, he offers Democrats a bold populist option.
Who is Lucas Kunce?
Lucas Kunce is a Missouri attorney and former Marine who gained prominence through his 2022 Democratic campaign for U.S. Senate. He is running again in 2024, challenging incumbent Republican Senator Josh Hawley on a populist platform.
What is Kunce’s background?
Kunce was born and raised in a working-class family in Missouri. He enlisted in the Marines after college, serving 13 years which included deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Kunce has said his modest roots shape his focus on kitchen table economic issues impacting everyday Americans.
What are Kunce’s key political stances?
Kunce advocates economic populism, including increasing wages, empowering unions, retooling trade deals, and investing in domestic manufacturing. He supports withdrawing troops from overseas conflicts, universal healthcare through an expanded public option or Medicare for All system, transitioning to renewable energy, protecting civil liberties, and responsible policing reforms.
How did Kunce perform in the 2022 Democratic Senate primary?
Kunce exceeded expectations by finishing second out of 11 candidates, capturing 38% of the vote on his populist message. Although he lost the primary, Kunce’s strong grassroots support established him as a rising figure to watch within the progressive movement.
What will be Kunce’s potential strengths in a 2024 Senate bid?
Kunce will likely continue mobilizing grassroots enthusiasm for his bold populist stances. His working-class biography provides an engaging narrative. And Kunce’s military background gives him credibility. His outsider perspective could appeal to non-traditional Democratic voters.