Updated at 12:05 p.m. to clarify fundraising totals — Missouri Democrats are hoping to cut into the Republicans’ supermajority in the General Assembly, and the 8th District is a main target.
It’s a rematch for the eastern Jackson County seat that stayed with Republicans in November 2017’s special election, when then-House Majority Leader Mike Cierpiot managed a narrow victory (50 percent) over Democrat Hillary Shields (42.6 percent) and independent Jacob Turk (7 percent).
After watching Democrat Lauren Arthur flip a Republican seat in a special election in Clay County in June, Shields believes she can do the same.
“I think it shows people really are ready for change,” Shields said. “She won a district where her Republican predecessor had won by 20 points. She won it by 20 points. People are really ready for some changes and I think they're really fed up with politics as usual.”
In last year’s election, Cierpiot had the fundraising advantage, boosted by outside groups. This time, Shields is on top. In the 30 days after the Aug. 7 primary alone, she received $31,309.44 compared to $16,850 for Cierpiot. Overall, Shields has about $91,000 on hand versus Cierpiot's roughly $80,500 on hand.
“I'm really proud that our campaign is funded by literally thousands of small-dollar donations,” Shields said. “They know that it's time for us to put our money where our mouth is. We have to show up. We have to fight these fights.”
Cierpiot acknowledges there’s a lot of energy behind Democrats, but thinks Shields is out of sync with the district, which includes Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit.
“I'm not taking it for granted, we have a full-fledged campaign going,” Cierpiot said. “But I think that this district is much closer aligned to my views than my opponent’s.”
Cierpiot said if he wins a full term in Jefferson City, he’ll focus on budget issues and workforce development.
“Right now there's a lot of discussion about Medicaid and some of the costs that are going up there and K-12 education,” Cierpiot said. “Those are the two biggest drivers of costs, in our budget and two areas that I think we need to make sure we get a good balance.”
He also said that he has a good working relationship with Democratic senators from the area: “People think Jeff City is Washington and Washington is a mess, but Jeff City actually works pretty well.”
But Shields said ballot initiatives like Amendment 1, which would change ethics laws and how the state draws its legislative districts, are a sign voters think lawmakers aren’t doing enough.
“What I've found really, really interesting, inspiring, is the way that the issues cut across lines,” she said. “That seniors are worried about good schools for their grandkids. That young parents are worried about services for their aging parents. That everybody cares about getting their roads fixed.”
Republicans have held the 8th District seat for nearly 40 years, and in the 2010 and 2014 elections, Democrats didn’t even field a candidate.
Samuel King is the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter: @SamuelKingNews