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KBIA is committed to covering election season in mid-Missouri through a citizen-centered lens that prioritizes constituent needs. Instead of horse-race coverage that focuses on the odds of a win, we’ll uplift our neighbors’ voices to answer the more essential question: “What’s at stake for you?” Together, we’ll explore the answers that will really matter at the polls in November 2024

Missouri Republicans revived the caucus. Here's a look at the caucus in Cole County

Walking into the Missouri Farm Bureau Office in Cole County, caucusgoers were presented with two options. They could either go to the volunteers' working machines lent to them by the county clerk to register, or if they pre-registered, they could go to two sisters checking a list.

Amanda Badget and Charlotte Gazette were there to help out their mother, Penny Quigg, who helped coordinate Cole County’s caucus day.

“We left at 5:30 this morning,” Budget said. “Our mother tells us to do things — we do them.”

It was all hands on deck, Quigg said.

“We are all volunteers, and we are doing our sincerest to put out a good product,” Quigg said.

When 10 a.m. rolls around, the meeting began and immediately went break as they got an official count. Quigg sent the sisters to count.

The total call for the day was 240 caucusgoers, and the meeting proceeded. Jefferson City Mayor Ron Fitzwater was made the permanent chair, and the caucus moved on to the part everyone had been waiting for.

At a caucus, you vote with your body, moving into a position with a group that shares your selection. Former President Donald Trump was getting a lot of support at Cole County’s caucus, so those supporters were told to just stay where they were.

Those wishing to form a caucus for Nikki Haley were sent to a corner of the room. With a count of 23, Haley’s supporters did not meet the 15% threshold required by the rules to form a caucus.

Four days later, Haley dropped out.

Haley’s supporters were then given two options: join Trump’s side or end their participation in the caucus. Army veteran Allen Barnett was no fan of Trump but decided to join the Trump caucus.

“I’m moving because I want my voice to be heard,” Barnett said.

The next part of the process required slates of delegates to be appointed to attend statewide conventions in the coming months.

A member of the Trump caucus prepared a slate of delegates that included many of the volunteers working at the caucus. The Trump caucus was given 30 minutes to produce any other slate proposals.

To contest the prepared slate of delegates, another slate branding itself as the grassroots conservatives quickly arose. This slate included Secretary of State John Ashcroft. They distinguished themselves from the Republican slate, saying that they were "true conservatives." They called themselves the Conservative Patriots of Cole County.

Sherry Kuttenkuller, a legislative staff to Republican Missouri State Senator Bill Eigel, also got drawn to the pop-up conservative slate.

“We put this together really quickly over here on the other side of the room because we were all united in wanting you to have a choice,” Eigel said.

Once the slates were in and a brief stump speech was given, the caucus voted on who would represent the Cole County Trump caucus at the statewide convention.

The grassroots conservative slate easily won the vote. Vic Raker is a vocal supporter of the winning slate throughout the process. He said his slate was the truly conservative slate.

“We are the Trump conservatives and we have to stop being the silent majority and be the vocal majority,” Raker said.

From here, Cole County will send its slate of delegates to two statewide conventions in April and May.

Alex Cox is a Junior in the Missouri School of Journalism. They're a reporter and producer for KBIA.
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