Rep. Crystal Quade, pictured while attending the Springfield Public Schools Task Force meeting in July 2022. (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

Springfield Democratic state Rep. Crystal Quade is fighting back against an effort to add an independent candidate to the Nov. 8 ballot and suggests that Republicans are behind the effort in hopes of driving votes away from Democratic candidates.

Quade, the House minority leader seeking a fourth two-year term, filed a lawsuit against independent candidate and Springfield resident Larry Flenoid II roughly a week after the Secretary of State’s office certified his petition to get his name on the November ballot. The suit alleges some of his signatures are not valid, even though Flenoid received a certificate of sufficiency from the Secretary of State.

Flenoid said Quade’s attack means one thing to him: she’s scared. He said Republicans did not recruit him to run for election, he simply wants to represent his community.

Larry Flenoid II (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

“Both (Democrats and Republicans) are ignoring our community right now,” Flenoid told the Daily Citizen Wednesday. “I got into this race because our community needed a leader, and our community needed a voice. That’s what I am. I am this community. I got in this race to win, flat out. Period…

“This 132 District is the most Black and poor white people in Springfield. So of course they going to vote Democrat all the time. So you been riding the wave of they votes, and not doing a damn thing for them.”

Quade’s Republican opponent, Stephanos Freeman, also cast doubt on the idea of a Republican recruiting effort.

Motivations behind the lawsuit

This lawsuit comes on the heels of a campaign email by Quade that shared “tough news” of the addition of an independent candidate to the race for House District 132.

“Across the state, Republicans have recruited independent candidates in close districts, like ours, to drive votes away from Democratic candidates,” Quade said. 

In an interview with the Springfield Daily Citizen, Quade said the campaign didn’t look into any GOP recruitment specifically during their analysis of the petition, but they’ve seen Republicans enlisting independents, and in some cases, Democrats, to run in districts around the state. 

Freeman found Quade’s remarks on GOP recruitment “interesting.” 

“As far as I can tell, there’s not a lot of recruiting going on to begin with,” Freeman said. “It’s pretty far-flung to say the party itself is doing any recruiting for candidates really in general, particularly for an independent of another party. … It’s up to the Republican party to convince people they should vote Republican and it’s up to the Democratic party to convince people they should vote Democrat.” 

Regarding the lawsuit, Freeman said the results would be dependent on whether the proper statutes are being followed and how Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft determines whether this lawsuit fits in with the “letter of the law.”

The lawsuit: Are there enough valid signatures or not?

The lawsuit claims Flenoid failed to obtain the statutory minimum of signatures required for an independent candidate petition. According to Missouri law, independent candidates must get 2 percent of the previous election’s vote total in order to qualify, which, for this current election cycle, would be 213 signatures.

Showing off his letter of certification, Larry Flenoid II says he got into this race to win. “Flat out. Period.” (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

Flenoid had 221 valid signatures, according to the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, which sufficiently met the requirements and would thereby include him on the Nov. 8 ballot, along with Quade and Freeman. 

However, the lawsuit claims some of the signatures are of individuals who either do not reside in the district or county, or whose name is duplicated on the petition. Based on Quade and attorney Matthew B. Vianello’s review of the independent candidate petition, no more than 170 signatures are valid, which falls below the necessary threshold to qualify Flenoid for the general election. 

“Because of those concerns that the lawfully mandated threshold may not have been validly met, we have sought to have the petition signatures be re-verified so that voters will not face any confusion regarding the upcoming election,” Quade said in a campaign statement.

The Daily Citizen reached out to the Secretary of State’s office for comment, and while they are aware of the situation and prepared to respond to the lawsuit, it has yet to be served to them, therefore they provided no more information regarding the status of Flenoid’s candidacy status.

Can Flenoid win?

Flenoid said he’s reached a voter base that no one else has, registering 700 voters over the course of his campaign.

When asked why he thought he could win against incumbent Quade, Flenoid said:

“Because I am this community. Because I relate to the community. Because I got the vote that they never will have. The street. The vote of people that don’t like them. The people that say that they vote don’t matter. The people that say that they ain’t never voted before.”

Shannon Cay Bowers contributed to this report.

Jack McGee

Jack McGee is a general assignment reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen, with a focus on regional politics. McGee most recently worked at Carbon Trace Productions, a documentary film company, as a producer. He’s a Missouri State University graduate and former reporter at student-led newspaper The Standard. More by Jack McGee