Two Jefferson County statehouse districts closely watched as bellwethers went Republican on Tuesday.
Mary Elizabeth Coleman won in Missouri’s 97th House District and incumbent Sen. Paul Wieland won in Missouri’s 22nd Senate District.
97th House District
Coleman defeated Democratic incumbent Mike Revis, who flipped the seat in a February special election and largely ran his re-election campaign on labor rights.
Coleman’s victory in the majority Jefferson County district showed that social conservatism could prevail over labor rights in the largely blue-collar and commuter district. Coleman ran on fully funding education, increasing jobs for entrepreneurs by offering incentives to small businesses and addressing flooding.
Coleman won the seat with more than 56 percent of the vote. She attributed her victory to a robust "boots on the ground" campaign and dedicated volunteers.
“I think we just worked really hard, she said. “Not just me, but so many people.”
She added, “To see the camaraderie and support from within the party. Everyone from Congresswoman Ann Wagner all the way down to neighboring reps to county council members. I mean just across the board, tremendous support.”
Coleman said she was heartened by the results for Republicans in Jefferson County.
“It looks like it’s a pretty clean sweep for the Republicans in Jefferson County and I’m thrilled,” she said.
She said she thinks this indicates that Jefferson County will trend away from being home to purple House and Senate Districts.
“I do think that it’s significant,” Coleman said. “Because it’s in this year and what’s supposed to be such a terrible cycle for Republicans if we’re able to maintain and even gain seats within our county I think that bodes well for the future of Republican Party in Jefferson County.”
Coleman said she’s looking forward to focusing on “world-class education” in her district, workforce development and addressing flooding.
Revis said he was “a little disappointed, given all the hard work that went into defeating Prop A. I still think that was huge victory for labor.”
His campaign relied heavily on district voters being motivated by labor rights. He warned that Tuesday's election would be bad for heavily pro-labor districts like the 97th.
“I think that a lot of folks felt like we had it in the bag and we put many attacks on labor to bed with that. That’s clearly not the case when we’re electing candidates tonight that vocally supported Prop A and vocally supported right to work,” he said. “There will be other things to come that won’t be good for working people based on tonight’s results.”
Revis said he doesn’t think Coleman’s victory or Republican performance in Jefferson County means things will swing red long-term in the district. “I think it’s still very much in play.”
22nd Senate District
Wieland once again emerged victorious Tuesday in the battle for Jefferson County District 22 to serve his final term at the Missouri statehouse.
He won with more than 58 percent of the vote.
Wieland beat Democrat Robert Butler, running on a platform of improving infrastructure and bringing an inland port to the district.
He also attributed his victory to hard work on the campaign trail and appealing to the three issues that have historically been most important to county voters: guns, abortion and labor.
“I think we’ve done a good job in this campaign of letting the citizens know where we are on those three issues and I think that’s what gave us the victory we had tonight,” Wieland said.
Wieland said he’s looking forward to attracting more jobs to the county through the port and continuing to work on consumer protection legislation.
He said this election did change how he sees Jefferson County.
“I was flabbergasted at the numbers that people posted tonight.” he said. “The Republican message is really resonating with people here in Jefferson County more than I ever thought I’d see in my lifetime.”
Butler released a statement in conjunction with the group JeffCo Forward saying, “We are disappointed that the Jefferson County electorate broke so closely along partisan lines. We feel that many of our candidates had more to offer working families than their Republican opponents.”
However, relying so heavily on appealing to the district’s pro-labor constituency did not work in favor for county Democrats this election cycle.
Wieland’s campaign highlighted his staunch anti-abortion stance, and clarified often that he was a pro-labor Republican. His win makes clear that Jefferson County voters can still be swayed by a socially conservative platform as long as it’s accompanied by a pro-labor stance.
Follow Abigail Censky on Twitter: @AbigailCensky