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Republican with history of vulgar, anti-gay online attacks files for Missouri Senate

Former Missouri Reps. Stephen Webber, left, a Democrat, and Chuck Basye, a Republican. The two former Marines are facing off for a state Senate seat in Boone County.
Missouri Independent
Former Missouri Reps. Stephen Webber, left, a Democrat, and Chuck Basye, a Republican. The two former Marines are facing off for a state Senate seat in Boone County.

Only one word describes what voters in Missouri’s 19th Senate District can expect from this year’s campaign.


Former state Rep. Chuck Basye, a Rocheport Republican who habitually issues profane insults to opponents through email and social media, filed Tuesday to run in the central Missouri district. He filed at the urging of Senate Majority Leader Cindy O’Laughlin, who didn’t want to hand Democrats a seat held for 16 years by the GOP.

He’s running against former state Rep. Stephen Webber, a Columbia Democrat and a frequent target of Basye’s often lewd attacks.

One example: Last year, Basye told a woman on Facebook that she was “loving on Stephen Webber’s bulls**t,” before falsely claiming Webber was gay and only mad at Basye because he’d defeated Webber’s “boyfriend” in a state legislative race years earlier.

That, Basye wrote to the woman, was why Webber would not allow her to perform oral sex on him.

Webber has repeatedly shared screenshots of Basye’s attacks on social media to make the case he’s unfit for public office.

“Chuck BASYE is continuing to obsess (incorrectly) over my sexual orientation, while vilely sexually harassing a female poster,” Webber wrote last year after Basye lost a school board election. “I’ve never seen a local candidate lose it like this.”

Webber said that as a politician and public figure, he expects a fair amount of abuse. But Basye’s vitriol directed at private citizens is appalling, he said, and should be rebuked by Republicans.

“The stuff that he says is vile,” Webber said. “It’s sexual harassment to some people. It’s bullying. It’s demeaning. It’s revolting. It’s vulgar. I can’t think of any example of any politician the country has seen that has said as many things as revolting as he said.”

The language Basye uses has become more and more acceptable in some political circles because of the influence of conservative talk radio and former President Donald Trump, said Terry Smith, a professor of political science at Columbia College.

“Not necessarily the seven words you can’t say on radio, but just foul language, vulgar talk,” Smith said. “And then, of course, Trump took it to another level and I think a president of the United States using vulgar language, where it’s reported, is kind of enabling and empowering to people who all of a sudden, say if he can do it, then I sure can.”

Basye’s posts are evidence of a bigger problem, Webber said. Deeply personal and disturbing attacks have trickled down into local races, he said, and Republicans continue to turn a blind eye.

“The thing that I’m most disappointed by is that prior to 2016, every Republican in the state would have condemned him for saying things like this or anyone for saying things like this,” Webber said. “And now they’re, you know, they’re okay with it.”

Basye, in interviews with The Independent on Thursday, confirmed he wrote the social media posts and email replies being circulated by his political foes. He feels justified in using that language, he said, because he is regularly under attack himself— including, he said, hurtful messages after his mother died of COVID-19 in 2020.

“I’m very comfortable with speaking my mind the way I do it,” Basye said. “And I’m going to continue to do that until I’m no longer able to do it.”

The 19th District is one that could change the balance of power in the Missouri Senate. Until Basye filed, Webber seemed destined to be unopposed in both the August primary and November general elections.

If he wins, he will flip a seat to the Democratic Party held by Republicans for 16 years and currently held by Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, who defeated Webber in 2016.

This year’s elections promise one of the biggest turnover of seats in the Senate since term limits took effect. If Democrats pick up two Senate seats this year, they will break the two-thirds supermajority the GOP has enjoyed in the upper chamber for more than a decade.

Basye was in the House from 2014 to 2022. He said last year that he would not let Webber run unopposed, but it took the call late last week from O’Laughlin for him to commit to the race.

In an interview Thursday, O’Laughlin said she was aware that Basye was combative on social media but had not seen any of the ones using profanity or anti-LGBTQ language.

After she was read several of the messages during a telephone conversation, O’Laughlin said: “I don’t know what to say about that. I haven’t seen those things. It’d be worth me having a conversation with him.”

The candidates

For two years, Webber and Basye were colleagues in the Missouri House.

Webber won election to the House in 2008 after returning home to Columbia after his second tour of duty with the Marines in Iraq. He enlisted in the Marines after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and his second tour included a nine-month assignment in 2006 and 2007 to Fallujah with Company C of the 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment.

Webber held his Columbia seat for the eight years allotted by term limits. After losing the 2016 election to Rowden, he was chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party and is currently political director of the Missouri AFL-CIO.

Basye won election to the House in 2014, defeating a first-term incumbent Democrat by 300 votes. Basye, like Webber, was a Marine, serving from 1976 to 1980. He later worked for the FAA at Columbia Regional Airport, retiring shortly before launching his bid for the Missouri House.

Like Webber, Basye served the full eight years allowed. Since leaving office, he has worked in U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer’s district office and ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Columbia Board of Education.

He left Luetkemeyer’s employment in the district office on June 30.

Basye willingly engages on social media, and since he filed for the Senate, he has not stopped hurling personal insults or using profanity and sexual imagery to attack his detractors.

Communications consultant and retired statehouse journalist Scott Charton greeted Basye’s entry into the Senate race by publishing several screenshots on social media of Bayse using obscenities in response to criticism on Facebook.

Charton shared the screenshots with the comment “Chuck Basye Charm School.”

In response to the post, Basye wrote: “I bet Scott Charton doesn’t get on many bathroom scales!! Isn’t that right you fat bastard?”

Asked for comment, Charton said: “Bless his heart. I hope Chuck Basye is getting the help he obviously needs.”

The Independent gathered dozens of examples of Basye’s posts, and detractors have circulated many others.

 A June 2023 post on X by Stephen Webber, Democratic candidate for the 19th state Senate seat, showing how his Republican opponent, Chuck Basye, responded to a birthday fundraising email Webber sent to his mailing list (Screenshot).In an interview Thursday, Basye said he’s justified in what he wrote because he is defending himself from attack.

“You’re seeing one side of those little clips that they’re posting on their social media circles,” Basye said. “I have never initiated any of this. It’s always a reply to somebody else attacking me. So there you go. You have to look at the whole story.”

But Basye also sends profane and defamatory messages via email, and has used that platform to question Webber’s service in the Marines.

In August, Basye responded to another Webber fundraising email by questioning his military bona-fides. After expressing a wish that Webber would fornicate himself, Basye demanded that he “show use your DD214 you f****** con artist.”

The DD214 form shows the duty assignments given to members of the Armed Forces when they separate from active duty.

In the interview before he filed, Basye said he sent that message because Webber isn’t a tidy dresser. Marine etiquette demands that buttons on a shirt are aligned with the belt buckle, he said.

“Every time I’ve seen Stephen, it looks like he sleeps in his clothes,” Basye said.

In an interview this week, Basye said it was because he hasn’t seen Webber at events he feels are important to veterans.

“I’m not questioning his service,” Basye claimed. “I’m questioning why he only shows up to take advantage of his veteran status when he’s running for office.”

He doesn’t doubt whether Webber was actually in the Marines or in combat in Iraq, Basye said.

“Stephen went through absolute hell in Fallujah,” he said.

Webber said Basye uses social media to say things he wouldn’t dare say to someone in person.

“He’s been a keyboard warrior,” Webber said. “He is very tough when he’s in a position of power, but I don’t think he’s necessarily a tough guy.”

The apology 

In February, when Webber was dining at Murry’s, a popular Columbia restaurant, Basye came in with his brother.

Basye said he wanted to call a truce.

“I went over and I apologized to Stephen,” Basye said. “It was a very nice conversation. I actually like him. I think he’s a nice guy.”

He said he told Webber that “politics tends to create a little bit of friction here and there” and that he was going to stop engaging with insults and profanity.

“It’s not going to come from me,” he said he told Webber.

Webber said he accepted the apology, but only because Basye revealed some personal issues that he was dealing with at the time. Without that explanation, Webber said, the apology would have rung hollow.

“When it’s not just like, ‘hey, I have a track record of all these horrible things and now, I’m sorry,’ but I also express what is causing me to do that, that admission is the first step to trying to solve the problem,” Webber said.

Bayse has not lived up to his pledge, Webber noted.

“The attacks that he makes against me are bizarre, but I’m a public figure so it’s fine,” he said. “It’s really the sexual harassment, the homophobia, the vulgarity towards just regular citizens that is beyond the line. If you want to say crazy things about me, do it. That’s fine.”

A changing district

This election, for the first time, Boone County will elect a state senator without votes from any other county. When Webber lost the 19th District in 2016, he won narrowly at home and the race was decided for Rowden in Cooper County.

The consensus among political observers in Columbia is that the seat would go to a Democrat under almost any scenario, Smith said.

He knows both Basye and Webber and said he doubts Basye thinks beating Webber will is likely.

“He’s just going a kind of chaos candidate I think, but that’s what a lot of Republicans are doing that now,” Smith said. “And if they’re not having success, at least they are putting big burrs under the under the civic saddle.”

Boone County Republican Central Committee Chairman Tony Lupo said he was happy, and somewhat surprised, to see that Basye filed to run for the seat.

“When you have an empty position, you’re just glad that somebody’s willing to step up and take the risk of running,” Lupo said.

Basye said he didn’t want to run. It took several calls from O’Laughlin to persuade him because he had no campaign prepared.

“They were just trying their best to find somebody to run and no one had an interest due to the dynamics of Boone County,” Basye said.

Webber has no Democratic opposition for the race because he has been building toward the election for more than a year before he filed. By doing so, he has amassed the largest campaign treasury of any candidate seeking a Senate seat this year, and the joint fundraising committee backing him has the largest pool of cash for independent spending.

Reactions to posts

Rowden, the current incumbent in the 19th District, is exiting politics after 12 years representing Boone County in the General Assembly.

In an interview, Rowden said he had not seen Basye’s vulgar posts and declined an offer to see some. After some were read out, he said he would not ask Basye to withdraw from the race.

“I certainly don’t agree with Chuck’s use of that language,” Rowden said.

His concern is getting the best lawmaker for his district, Rowden said.

“I want somebody here who will fight for Columbia and for Boone County,” he said. “I actually think both of those guys would do that. Other than that, I don’t agree with what he said. So I will gladly say that.”

Lupo said he had heard Basye is combative but had not seen any of Basye’s social media posts.

“He has a wry sense of humor, I’ll put it that way,” Lupo said. “He can get pretty into it with folks. But I think a lot of this is, he likes to just have a debate whether it’s friendly or not.”

When shown some of the posts, Lupo was clearly shocked, saying “oh my” and “oh wow” to several.

“It’s pretty hard, but he’s a hard man,” Lupo said.

There is no doubt Basye’s online personality will be an issue for the district, Lupo said.

“He’s gonna have to answer for those in the campaign,” Lupo said of Bayse’s social media posts. “I certainly don’t condone that. But Chuck is Chuck, and he has a very hard side as he goes at opponents.”

While she had a reaction similar to Lupo when read the posts, O’Laughlin said she would not ask Basye to withdraw.

“There’s always going to be someone saying something that you consider to be outside the bounds of polite conversation,” she said.

She continues to support his candidacy, O’Laughlin said.

“I cannot be Chuck’s monitor,” O’Laughlin said. “I think Chuck has done good things in his life. For the most part, I think that he means well. Maybe he needs to take a break from social media.”

In the past, a single outrageous comment was enough for many Missouri Republicans to repudiate a candidate.

In 2012, then-state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Republican running for re-election in the 19th District, condemned U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, after Akin said in an interview that a woman can’t get pregnant from “a legitimate rape.”

Schaefer called on Akin to withdraw from the race, as did numerous other party leaders.

Basye said he’s not fielded any calls from Republicans asking him to withdraw but he has been asked to change his online personality.

“I got a call a little while ago to stand down,” Basye said, “and I am not going to do it.”

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