The 2014 mid-term election is over, but its impact on local and state politics could be long lasting.
That’s because Republicans -- who were already in firm control of the Missouri General Assembly – expanded their numbers in the House and Senate in part because they were able to crack the Democrats' once-sturdy strongholds in Jefferson County, southeast Missouri and northeast Missouri. In St. Louis County, Republicans also came close to electing a county executive for the first time since 1990 when Democrat Buzz Westfall ended 28 years of GOP control over the office.
For Democrats, it may be a tossup whether 2010 or 2014 was the bigger disaster. In 2010, the party lost the Missouri auditor’s office and an even greater number of seats in the legislature. This year, they didn't even run a candidate for auditor. But they did hold on to the county executive office and win back a swing state Senate district in St. Louis County.
Can Carpenter cobble together a southwest and north side coalition to outflank Florida?
Yes – and then some.
Former Recorder of Deeds Sharon Carpenter won 27 out of the 28 wards,with big margins in African-American majority wards on the north and south sides. She also won her home base in southwest St. Louis, albeit by smaller margins.
Carpenter’s opponent – current Recorder of Deeds Jennifer Florida – won only the 15th Ward, which she represented on the Board of Aldermen, even though Florida had more money and more high-powered endorsements than Carpenter, who resigned earlier this year for nepotism charges.
The outcome could have been predicted. Carpenter’s huge win in the Democratic primary should have been a red flag for her adversaries. Without racking up big numbers in the city’s central corridor and holding down Carpenter’s percentages in south St. Louis, Florida did not have a clear path to victory.
Carpenter’s win was rebuke of sorts to Mayor Francis Slay, who backed losing candidates for St. Louis County executive and license collector in the primary.
Still, Carpenter’s critics may have the last laugh because scrutiny of her office spending could continue, with further complications when she returns to office. In an odd bit of timing, the day before the election, the Riverfront Times reported on a draft report of a critical audit of the office under Carpenter.
As for Florida, she could run for her old 15th Ward seat again next April. But she’ll have to outflank Alderwoman Megan Green – as well as other candidates who may run in the Democratic primary.
Can Democratic House candidates hold their ground in St. Louis County?
Yes and no.
On one hand, after numerous attempts, Democrat Deb Lavender picked up a previously Republican Kirkwood-based House seat -- that of Rick Stream, who ran for county executive. State Rep. Bill Otto, D-St. Charles, decisively won in a competitive seat that includes parts of St. Louis County. And former state Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette fended off a challenge from Republican Raymond Chandler to keep a central St. Louis County seat in Democratic hands.
On the other hand, Republican Cloria Brown easily unseated state Rep. Vicki Englund, D-Green Park, in a south county district. It was the fourth time the two have faced each other in an election, and the second time Brown prevailed.
Will Schupp’s ads spur socially liberal voters to turn out?
This one is harder to answer because we can’t read voters’ minds. But Schupp did win, so it clearly didn’t hurt.
In some ways, Schupp charted a similar strategy to state Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, when he ran against state Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, in 2012. When Sifton was in the Missouri House, he didn’t shy away from supporting abortion rights or gay rights – even though the 1st District had large pockets of socially conservative voters.
But Schupp took things a step further: Her ad criticizing Republican Jay Ashcroft for opposing abortion rights was a rare instance of a Democratic candidate using that issue as a weapon against a GOP candidate. It probably got the attention of female voters who care about that issue, which may have made the difference in a close race.
“For months, I told voters that my record is open and my door always will be. I asked you to trust me and you did,” Schupp said in her victory speech. “My goal was to run an authentic campaign and let voters get to know me. The real me. The only me. The daughter, wife, mom, former teacher and small business executive who believes government can and should be a force for good.”
Did Roorda’s shift to the right help him outflank Wieland?
Not at all.
When he came back to the Missouri General Assembly for his fourth and final term in 2013, state Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, voted increasingly with Republicans on some controversial bills – including expanding gun rights and restricting abortion. He said that it showcased his independence from his party and willingness to think for himself.
But that strategy didn’t seem to resonate much with Jefferson County voters. State Rep. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, won by nearly 10 percentage points. And two other Democratic lawmakers who voted for socially conservative bills – Reps. Michael Frame, D-Jefferson County, and T.J. McKenna, D-Jefferson County – were unseated.
With his loss, Roorda becomes the latest Democratic state Senate candidate who departed from his party on key social issues to lose an election.
Will Gov. Pat Quinn sink U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart?
Incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn's showing certainly didn’t help, but it may not have been the decisive factor in U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart’s defeat.
Businessman Bruce Rauner trounced Quinn in downstate Illinois. But state Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, not only beat Enyart in the rural parts of the 12th District, but he also won a plurality in St. Clair County – the key Democratic stronghold in the Metro East.
Enyart, the former head of the Illinois National Guard, probably hadn’t established enough name recognition or a viable political organization to withstand a vigorous Republican challenge in a bad Democratic year. And the strategy of highlighting Bost’s fiery speeches in Springfield likely backfired – especially since Illinois voters repudiated of the state’s executive leadership.
Is St. Louis County too Democratic for a Republican to win county executive?
Township results probably won’t be available for a while, but the answer is probably yes.
That said, state Rep. Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, fared better than any GOP candidate for the post in years. His margin of defeat was minuscule, probably much smaller than many imagined – especially before Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown.
But even though some prominent black Democrats endorsed Stream, they couldn't bring enough votes to put him over the top. The last precincts to come in last night were primarily in north and central St. Louis County, and they were the ones that gave Councilman Steve Stenger the edge. Stream’s inroads to north St. Louis County may have had had a ceiling.
Stenger may owe some of his victory to Schupp. The voters she turned out in her central St. Louis-based district may have also voted for Stenger, which could have made the difference in a tight race.
Stream came closer to winning the powerful local office than any Republican in recent memory. For instance, Republican Bill Corrigan raised more money than Stream and got into the race earlier – and arguably faced a more damaged opponent in incumbent St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley. But he did not do as well as Stream did against Stenger.
Stream's near win may make him the favorite to succeed state Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, in the Missouri Senate in 2016.
On the Trail, a weekly column, weaves together some of the intriguing threads from the world of Missouri politics.