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LIVE BLOG - Midterm Elections 2018

Midnight — That’s all, folks!

With more than 91 percent of precincts reporting, here’s what we know:

Missouri will be the 31st state to approve medical marijuana. Voters also approved a sweeping overhaul of state legislative redistricting but rejected a gas tax increase. And for the second time since 2006, Missouri voters backed an increase to the state’s minimum wage.

Read more: Missourians back Clean Missouri, minimum wage hike, medical marijuana

That’s a wrap on the blow-by-blow election night live blog, but our in-depth coverage is just beginning. Check out our election results graphics. Then come back for context and analysis on state and local races, or sign up for one of our e-newsletters.

11:45 Galloway hangs on, will be only statewide Democrat come January

The lone bright spot of the night for Democrats in the Show-Me State was auditor Nicole Galloway, who won a squeaker of an election against Saundra McDowell.

With the Clean Missouri redistricting amendment passing, Galloway is in a position of power. The amendment puts the auditor in charge of nominating the nonpartisan demographer who will be in charge of the new maps. She, however, told Politically Speaking that, “The demographer should not be a political hire,” she said. “It should be someone based on qualifications and experience — things that I value.”

“Auditor Galloway ran a strong campaign that highlighted her experience and proven record of looking out for Missouri taxpayers,” a statement from the Service Employees International Union said on Galloway’s victory. “The janitors, health care workers, public employees and more of SEIU will continue to work with Auditor Galloway to hold politicians and wealthy special interests accountable to Missouri working families.”

11:15 p.m. — Incumbent ousted in U.S. Senate race as Hawley beats McCaskill

Missouri will have two Republican senators come January.

"We believe in our future and we are ready to fight for it,” a triumphant Josh Hawley told a roaring crowd gathered at the University Plaza Hotel in Springfield, Missouri. At 10:55 p.m., with about 60 percent of the precincts reporting, he was leading McCaskill 57 percent to 39 percent.

The polls had shown a very close race throughout the late summer and fall, but Hawley hitched his wagon to President Donald Trump, and the decision appeared to pay off.

“In 2016, Republicans brought home a historic victory in Missouri, from the presidency down the ballot. Tonight, we kept the winning streak going with Josh Hawley's incredible defeat of Claire McCaskill," said Sam Graves, the chairman of the Missouri GOP. I'm honored to call Josh Hawley our next senator from the great state of Missouri."

"We can count on Josh to work with President Trump to strengthen our economy, protect our borders and fight for Missouri values in Washington.

McCaskill told her supporters at the Marriott Grand Hotel in downtown St. Louis that she was grateful to the people of Missouri for giving her two terms in the Senate.

“I want to thank the people of Missouri for giving me the opportunity to serve for as long as I have,” said McCaskill, who also served as Missouri’s auditor, the Jackson County prosecutor and in the state legislature. I feel good about the service, and I feel I’ve made a difference.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill thanks supporters at an election night watch party after calling Attorney General Josh Hawley to concede.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill thanks supporters at an election night watch party after calling Attorney General Josh Hawley to concede.

She said she looked forward to nurturing the next generation of political leaders in the state.

In another victory for Republicans, Cort VanOstran officially conceded the 2nd Congressional District race to incumbent Ann Wagner.

10:30 p.m. — Medical marijuana, minimum wage and Clean Missouri all pass; gas tax failing

Medical marijuana is coming to Missouri.

Voters approved Amendment 2, which imposes a 4 percent tax on marijuana sales. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services would be in charge of implementing the program. That would include the licensing of medical-marijuana cultivation facilities and dispensaries.

The tax would help the state cover the cost of the regulations. Any leftover money would go to the Missouri Veterans Commission.

“In becoming the 31st state to allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients with serious and debilitating illnesses, Missourians showed that increasing health care treatment options for patients and supporting veterans are bipartisan Missouri values,” Jack Cardetti, a spokesman for the group backing Amendment 2, said in a statement.

Voters rejected two other medical marijuana options on the ballot, meaning there are unlikely to be any legal challenges.

Missouri voters also adopted a wide-ranging ethics amendment known as Clean Missouri. In addition to posing new restrictions on campaign finance, Amendment 1 drastically reshapes Missouri’s redistricting process, turning it over to a nonpartisan demographer appointed by the state auditor.

And Missourians also voted to boost the minimum wage to $12 by 2023, But they are rejecting a proposed 10-cent increase to the gas tax.

10:15 p.m. — More Missouri numbers and Jefferson County stays red

The Missouri Secretary of State started posting numbers about 9:40 p.m., and the early results aren’t great for Democrats.

With about 41 percent of the precincts reporting, Josh Hawley leads the incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill 60 percent to 37 percent. Much of that is from rural counties, but Hawley is running up large margins there, some as high as 75 or 80 percent.

And Saundra McDowell, the Republican challenger for Missouri auditor, leads incumbent Democrat Nicole Galloway 52 percent to 43 percent.

Keep in mind, these numbers do not include the more heavily Democratic areas of the state. But losing both statewide elected officials would be a devastating blow to the party in Missouri.

The news wasn’t any better for Democrats in the 2nd Congressional District. Results show Ann Wagner with 51 percent to Cort VanOstran’s 47 percent. With Jefferson County going for Wagner, and her leading by a wide margin in St. Charles County (58 percent to 40 percent), there likely aren’t enough votes left in St. Louis County, where the race is practically tied, for VanOstran to make up the margin.

In fact, Wagner left her victory party at the Village Bar in Des Peres before the race was even called. In remarks to reporters, including Jason Rosenbaum, she lamented the fact that VanOstran had gone negative in his ads. “I’m pleased that I could run on my record,” she said.

Credit Carolina Hidalgo and Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio
Attendees watch results come in at U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill's election night watch party (top left) in downtown St. Louis and the watch party of Democratic 2nd Congressional District candidate Cort VanOstran in Clayton.

Democrats were also unable to make gains in Jefferson County. With all votes counted, Republican Mary Elizabeth Coleman defeated incumbent Democrat Mike Revis in state House District 97, who won the seat in a special election, 56 percent to 43 percent. And Paul Wieland held off his Democratic challenger Robert Butler 58 percent to 39 percent in the race for state Senate District 22.

9:30 p.m — You asked, we answer

With the Missouri Secretary of State estimating that the final vote won’t be cast until right about now, 9:30 p.m., let’s tackle some questions many of you had about the 2018 election. These were submitted through our Curious Louis page.

Alva asked: Can all of the marijuana issues pass?

The short answer is yes. Ballot issues do not run against each other in the way that candidates do. As long as a ballot issue gets 50 percent plus one, it passes.

The bigger question is which one takes effect if more than one meets that 50+1 threshold. Bottom line — expect court fights. Here’s why.

Two of the proposals amend the state Constitution. The third, Proposition C, changes state law. According to Missouri’s Constitution, “When conflicting measures are approved at the same election, the one receiving the largest affirmative vote shall prevail,” and it’s generally accepted that constitutional amendments outweigh state law.

We won’t get into all of the possible combinations and permutations of the possible results and what would therefore take effect. Here’s how the Secretary of State’s office summarized it:

“If the statutory amendment [that’s Prop C] passes along with a constitutional amendment that has an irreconcilable conflict with the statutory amendment, we believe the constitutional amendment would take precedence over the statutory amendment. If both constitutional amendments pass and they have an irreconcilable conflict with each other, the one that receives the most votes will take precedence. Finally, as to whether any of the IPs [initiative petitions] have irreconcilable conflict, that calls for a legal opinion, which we cannot answer. In any case, we expect that these decisions will be up to the courts.”

The meaning of the words “conflicting measures” will be very important in any court fight. As St. Louis Public Radio’s Jo Mannies explained, the three proposals all legalize medical marijuana, but do so in different ways. But as former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Michael Wolff outlines in an article in the St. Louis American, that doesn’t mean they conflict with each other. As he puts it:

“Courts define ‘conflicting’ as a situation where one prohibits what the other permits. By the definition, Amendment 2 and Prop C may not be ‘conflicting.’ Amendment 2 and Prop C, even with some inconsistencies, legalize and regulate medical marijuana within the structures of existing state government. Amendment 3, on the other hand, sets up a privately appointed new government to regular medical marijuana.”

Dave Roland, an attorney with the Freedom Center of Missouri, may sue if Amendment 3 becomes the law of the land. He told the Columbia Tribune, “The very foundation of our constitutional system is separation of powers, checks and balances, due process of law, and ultimate accountability to the people. Amendment 3 rejects all of these principles.”

Judith Kaplan asked: How is the Republican candidate for state auditor, Saundra McDowell, even on the ballot if she didn’t meet the residency requirement to run?

Because, while McDowell’s residency has been a popular line of political attack, none of her opponents challenged her qualifications in court. 

Saundra McDowell, Republican nominee for Missouri auditor  2018
Credit File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Saundra McDowell, the Republican nominee for Missouri auditor.

Missouri’s Constitution says candidates for auditor have to have lived in Missouri for at least 10 years before the election, the same as for the governor. But candidates don’t have to present any proof that they meet the residency requirement when they file for office, and the Missouri Secretary of State’s office isn’t authorized to investigate the qualifications of candidates on its own.

Election challenges would have had to come from McDowell’s Republican opponents in the August primary, or from incumbent Democrat Nicole Galloway. We’d be speculating as to why they chose not to, but the bottom line is no one did. And state law does not allow those challenges to be filed after someone is elected.

For her part, McDowell told reporters Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies on Politically Speaking that while she was in law school in Virginia 10 years ago, “prior to the 10-year requirement, I had actually already planted my foot in Missouri. My husband and I had already met, we had already planned to get married here, we only took the Missouri Bar.”   

Nancy Herndon asked: How can the ballot be set up to vote on redistricting and campaign financing reform in the same measure?

Because the courts said it could be.

Missouri’s Constitution says no proposed amendment “shall contain more than one amended and revised article of this constitution, or one new article which shall not contain more than one subject and matters properly connected therewith” — basically, you can’t change more than one thing at a time.

That formed the basis of a lawsuit filed by two Missouri residents, including Dan Mehan, the president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In September, a Cole County judge agreed that Clean Missouri, as the amendment is known, contained “numerous different proposals that arguably lack any readily identifiable and reasonably narrow central purpose,” and threw it off the ballot.

Supporters of Clean Missouri appealed Judge Daniel Green’s ruling, and on Sept. 21, a panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District overturned that decision and put Clean Missouri back on the ballot.

“A proposal may amend several articles in the constitution so long as all proposals are germane to a single purpose,” the judges wrote, quoting an earlier ruling. “Construing the Initiative Petition [Clean Missouri] ‘liberally and non-restrictively,’ we conclude that the petition’s multiple provisions all relate to a single central purpose: regulating the legislature to limit the influence of partisan or other special interests.” The state Supreme Court decided not to hear the case.

9:00 p.m. - Some first Missouri numbers

The Secretary of State’s office has yet to activate its election night results page, which means there are still people out there casting ballots. But local authorities have started posting early numbers, most of which are likely absentee ballots.

In St. Louis County, where absentee turnout was 7 percent, there’s a couple of interesting things to note. In the 2nd Congressional District, Cort VanOstran has a slight (374-vote) lead on Ann Wagner. Paula Brown, leads incumbent Republican State Rep. Mark Matthiesen in a north St. Louis County district that also extends into St. Charles County.

Credit David Kovaluk and Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio
They may not be of voting age, but the young guests at watch parties for Ann Wagner (left) and Cort VanOstran (right) were just as enthusiastic as if they had cast ballots themselves.

Incumbent Democratic County Executive Steve Stenger leads his Republican opponent, Paul Berry, 54 percent to 41 percent. A charter amendment that would significantly limit the executive’s budgeting authority is also winning by a wide margin.

And a sales tax that would help fund a new north St. Louis County facility for the St. Louis Zoo is also passing.


The numbers are also interesting in Jefferson County, where 9 percent of the precincts are in. While it is unlikely McCaskill will win the county outright, she is so far holding Hawley below 60 percent. Our resident Missouri political experts, Jo Mannies and Jason Rosenbaum, believe McCaskill needs to get at least 40 percent in the rural counties to survive.

In the 97th state House district, Mary Elizabeth Coleman leads Democratic incumbent Mike Revis. Revis picked up the seat in a surprise special election result in August, a result that was most likely driven by a heavy turnout from organized labor. And so far, Paul Wieland, the incumbent Republican in the 22nd state Senate District, is heading off a challenge from Democrat Robert Butler.

In St. Charles County, with about 11 percent of precincts reporting, Hawley leads McCaskill 56 percent to 41 percent. Wagner leads VanOstran 58 percent to 40 percent. And a limited ban on smoking is winning, 66 percent to 34 percent.

8:20 p.m. — Rauner concedes

The Democrats have picked up a governorship.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, the Republican incumbent, called Democratic challenger JB Pritzker to concede less than an hour after polls closed.

“To Mr. Pritzker, I said, 'Godspeed,'” Rauner said. “I hope and pray you serve Illinois well.”

The result is not a surprise. Rauner barely survived a primary challenge from the right flank of his party. He had alienated Democrats with his repeated attacks on unions, and conservative Republicans with his decision to sign legislation that expanded taxpayer-subsidized abortions. The state’s credit rating also took a beating due to a nearly two-year budget impasse that many blame on Rauner’s unwillingness to work with Democrats who control the Illinois General Assembly.

“Today, Illinois voters did more than defeat Bruce Rauner and end his four years of conflict and failure,” said Roberta Lynch, the executive director of AFSCME Council 31, the union that represents most state employees. “Today voters across the state came together to support working people and to repudiate not just Rauner personally but his mean-spirited, anti-worker, anti-union agenda."

The Illinois Manufacturers Association sounded a slightly more conciliatory note.

“The IMA and manufacturers are committed to working alongside the administration and members of the General Assembly to pursue policy ideas that will create more middle-class jobs and help secure Illinois' economic future,” said its vice president and chief operating officer Mark Denzler.

Pritzker’s overwhelming victory could help pull several U.S. House candidates over the line, including St. Clair County state’s attorney Brendan Kelly, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro. Bost leads Kelly in very early results, but those are likely coming from small, rural counties in far southern Illinois. The numbers to watch will be from the more populous Madison and St. Clair counties, which are heavily Democratic.

7:45 p.m — High turnout expected

As we wait for the first results to come in (follow along here) we’re getting indications that it could be a long night.

As of 4 p.m., St. Louis County was reporting turnout of almost 48 percent, with some polling places reporting near 60 percent. In Lincoln County, according to 5 On Your Side’s Chris Davis and Colin Jeffrey, several polling places ran out of paper ballots. The staff was printing additional ballots, and said anyone in line at 7 p.m. when the polls closed would be allowed to vote. And the Missouri Secretary of State says it will not begin receiving results from local authorities until all voters had cast ballots.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft predicted statewide turnout of 55 percent. That would be below the turnouts in the last two presidential elections, which were both near 66 percent, but well above turnout in the 2014 midterm election, when 35 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

There are a number of factors likely contributing to that jump in voter turnout. There was only one statewide race on the ballot in 2014, for auditor, and Republican incumbent Tom Schweich didn’t have a Democratic opponent. There were a few constitutional amendments, including so-called “right-to-farm” and a far-reaching gun rights proposal, but not much that would drive voters to the polls.

This year, however, control of the U.S. House and Senate are at stake. The race between Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and her Republican challenger, state Attorney General Josh Hawley, has attracted national and international attention. And there is an outside chance that Cort VanOstran could knock off incumbent U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin.

Who does higher turnout benefit? Depends who came out to vote. If rural counties turn out, Hawley may be able to rack up wide enough margins to overcome heavily Democratic St. Louis, St. Louis County and Kansas City. But if Democrats turn out in the 2nd Congressional District to vote for VanOstran, that could help McCaskill.

And now, for a few election night observations from our crew in the field.

Jonathan Ahl, St. Louis Public Radio’s new Rolla reporter, is at Hawley’s campaign headquarters in Springfield, Missouri, where, as he put it, “This election is going to the, well …”

Two- and four-legged supporters of Josh Hawley, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, gather at the University Plaza Hotel in Springfield, Missouri. Nov. 6 2018
Credit Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio
Two- and four-legged supporters of Josh Hawley, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, gather Tuesday evening at the University Plaza Hotel in Springfield, Missouri.

Reporter Shahla Farzan says turnout was good at Flamingo Bowl in downtown St. Louis, where supporters of Clean Missouri and a boost to the minimum wage are stationed. She says they are fueling up with chicken wings.

7 p.m. — Polls close

It’s 7 p.m., which means the polls across Missouri have closed. If you are in line right now, you can still vote.

The St. Louis Public Radio newsroom is following all the key races tonight. They include:

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.