9 takeaways from Missouri’s election that produced wins for both parties
Missouri Republicans now control every statewide office and hold commanding majorities in both chambers of the legislature after Tuesday’s election.
But Election Day wasn’t all bad for Missouri Democrats.
Despite big wins from Eric Schmitt in the U.S. Senate contest and Scott Fitzpatrick in the auditor’s race, Democrats came out on top in the only competitive state Senate contest. They also won seats in the Missouri House, thanks to a combination of strong candidates and a more favorable map.
On a local level, St. Louis Democrats marked a big shift with the election of Alderwoman Megan Green to the Board of Aldermen presidency. But St. Louis County voters chose the status quo with the reelection of County Executive Sam Page.
Schmitt made sure there were no surprises in the U.S. Senate contest
Many felt that Missouri’s U.S. Senate election was basically over from the moment Schmitt won the GOP primary in August.
National parties declined to help either Schmitt or Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine, a telltale sign that they expected Republicans to keep the seat in the GOP column.
Schmitt played it relatively safe after emerging from the August primary. He didn’t do many public events and didn’t debate Busch Valentine. And he bet correctly that a message advocating against President Joe Biden’s agenda would resonate with Missouri voters.
Still, Schmitt’s victory speech in Maryland Heights struck a relatively conciliatory tone, including an appeal to Missourians who didn’t vote for him.
“I hope to earn your trust in the Senate because I intend to be a senator for all Missourians,” he said.
Missouri Democrats have no answer on how to win back rural Missouri
One of the reasons Schmitt won is his absolute dominance in rural parts of the state.
Schmitt kept Busch Valentine hovering around 20% in lightly populated counties. That occurred even though Busch Valentine spent lots of time attacking Schmitt on his 2013 vote to repeal a ban on the foreign ownership of farmland.
This result showed two things: The first is that the foreign ownership of farmland issue clearly isn’t moving rural voters away from the GOP. The second is that Missouri Democrats have not found a way to get residents who rejected the national Democratic Party to vote for state-based candidates.
Busch Valentine had a mixed result in Missouri’s suburbs
Despite losing by roughly 13 percentage points, Busch Valentine wasn't a complete bust, some Missouri Democrats believe.
They point to her strong performances in St. Louis, Platte and Clay counties with helping Democratic candidates running for other offices. They include Democratic state Rep. Tracy McCreery, who won the most competitive state Senate race in Missouri this cycle.
But Busch Valentine continued her party’s struggles in suburbs with conservative voters, particularly Jefferson County. Schmitt got more than 60% of the vote there. And legislative candidates rolled to victory, including state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman getting more than 65% of the vote in the 22nd District Senate race.
Missouri Democrats will need to rebuild their competitiveness in conservative suburbs if they want to piece together the urban-suburban-rural coalition they need to win statewide elections. The math doesn’t work otherwise, even with gains in other suburban areas.
Missouri’s GOP congressional delegation could be gaining in influence
As of Wednesday afternoon, it’s not clear how large the GOP majority in the U.S. House will be. It’s possible that it could be a handful of votes, which would make Speaker of the House-in-waiting Kevin McCarthy fairly weak given how fractured his caucus is on certain issues.
But that doesn’t mean that a GOP takeover of the House wouldn’t be impactful, since Republicans would take over important legislative committee chairmanships. Three members of the Missouri delegation – Reps. Jason Smith, Blaine Luetkemeyer and Sam Graves – could wield chairman gavels in 2023.
And while she probably won’t lead a committee, Congresswoman Ann Wagner of Ballwin will head up subcommittees within the House Financial Services and Foreign Affairs committees. She could be a swing vote on issues that have bipartisan crossover, such as providing military and humanitarian support for Ukraine.
Still, with Biden in office and the possibility remaining that Democrats will control the Senate, House Republicans will have to temper their expectations about fundamentally transforming the federal government.
Missourians approved recreational marijuana despite significant opposition
When the medical use of marijuana was on the ballot in 2018, Missourians soundly approved it with 65% of the vote.
Four years later, the margin of victory for Amendment 3, known as Legal Missouri 2022 was smaller — 53% to 47%.
Now, Missourians 21 and older will be able to use marijuana on a recreational basis with some limitations. The victory comes despite the amendment facing vocal opposition from both Democrats and Republicans.
While Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and the St. Louis NAACP were in favor of it, opponents included St. Louis Mayor Tishuara Jones, Gov. Mike Parson and the Missouri NAACP.
Some of the reasons for not supporting the amendment included possession limits and an industry model that is likely to benefit businesses with existing medical licenses.
But those for Amendment 3 argued that voting no meant waiting for either the Missouri legislature to take action and pass cannabis legislation or waiting another two years for a different initiative petition.
Missouri state Democrats likely benefited from a new district map
On the congressional scale, Missouri’s new redistricting map kept the status quo, electing six Republicans and two Democrats to Congress.
However, the new Missouri House map, created earlier this year by a bipartisan redistricting commission, likely led to Democratic seat pickups.
Democrats in the House won newly drawn seats in the Springfield, Boone County and Kansas City areas while holding onto more competitive seats. The party gained a total of three seats.
When the map was agreed to in February, more competitive statehouse races were predicted, with Democrats possibly gaining a little more leverage.
For the Missouri Senate, the new map, which was agreed to by a panel of judges, made the 24th Senate District more competitive than the previous one, which favored Democrats.
However, Democrat Tracy McCreery kept the seat blue on Election Day, winning 53% of the vote.
Page underperforms among Democrats
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page won the Democratic primary race by 27 percentage points, but the results of Tuesday’s general election show he apparently still has some work to do within his party.
While Page won 51% to 46%, he underperformed every other Democratic candidate on the ballot throughout the county. And there was not a substantial difference in the number of ballots cast in those races. (The race for county prosecutor was an outlier, as Wesley Bell had no serious opposition.) That means a not-insignificant number of Democrats crossed party lines to vote for Democrat-turned-Republican Mark Mantovani, who had run a campaign focused on competency in county government.
The fact that Mantovani had run in the Democratic primary twice before likely helped some voters feel comfortable in crossing party lines to vote for him in a general election.
The progressive wing of the Democratic Party is now a permanent force in St. Louis
Not too long ago, the appeal of a candidate like Megan Green was limited to the wards around Tower Grove Park.
But for the second time in 19 months, the more progressive bloc has won a citywide election, with Green defeating fellow Alderman Jack Coatar 55% to 45% for the last five months of Lewis Reed’s term as president of the Board of Aldermen. With the win, she became the first woman to hold that office in the city’s history.
Green was endorsed by Mayor Tishaura Jones, who was also elected on a platform backed by progressives.
Green won 10 of the new 14 wards, including every ward in north St. Louis. She was likely helped by the endorsement of both Jones and U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, who also helped Green knock on doors in the closing days of the election.
Green said she will run for a full term in the office in April.
Missouri’s abortion ban could loom large in 2024
Unlike in other states, the demise of Roe v. Wade did not seem to have much impact on statewide elections. Schmitt won comfortably even though some Democrats contended Missouri’s ban on most abortions would energize voters against the GOP.
That doesn’t mean the issue's impact on Missouri elections is necessarily over.
Opponents of Missouri’s abortion ban could gather signatures to repeal and replace the law. And that could influence statewide elections for governor and the U.S. Senate in 2024 – especially if Missouri Democrats decide to nominate female candidates to statewide office who effectively stress abortion rights.
It’s also possible voters may support repealing and replacing the current law and still vote for GOP candidates for governor or the U.S. Senate as they have done with other ballot issues.
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