The 2020 Races For The Missouri House Will Drive A Landmark 2021 Legislative Session
Democrats will likely retain Kansas City-area seats for next year's work on Medicaid expansion and coronavirus-caused budget issues.
This year’s Missouri House candidates run the gamut from a woman who could become the state’s first Asian American female lawmaker to a Republican whose views are so extreme that members of his own family denounced him.
And while Republicans have a supermajority in the Missouri Legislature, many Democrats are favored in their Kansas City-area races.
No matter who wins Nov. 3, they’ll have a role in implementing the voter-approved Medicaid expansion law, redistricting after the 2020 Census (even with the Clean Missouri repeal proposal on the ballot) and finding state budget solutions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“What makes the Missouri Legislature interesting is there are huge issues, so people should pay attention,” said Beth Vonnahme, assistant professor of political science at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Plus, Vonnahme said, Missouri Republicans aren’t always united, leaving the door open for shrewd, capable legislators to make a difference and speak forcefully on behalf of the Kansas City region’s interests.
“The real work of a legislature is not what’s seen in the public’s eye,” she said. “It’s what happens behind the scenes. They can have an influence on how legislation is written and how it gets implemented.”
With that in mind, here are the key Kansas City-area Missouri House races to watch. And for more information on the candidates, click on their names to go to their campaign websites.
House District 13 (southern Platte County)
Incumbent Vic Allred, a restaurant owner, won the August Republican primary but dropped out afterward.
COVID-19 has taken a heavy toll on my restaurant business,” he wrote in a Sept. 8 statement, adding, “Consequently, it was determined that I would not be able to devote myself to another term in office.”
The Platte County Republican Committee chose Sean Pouche to replace Allred. Pouche is the son of longtime Platte County politician Fred Pouche. He works in the family business, Platte Rental and Supply; served in Iraq with the U.S. Navy Reserves; and had an unsuccessful run for House District 14.
The Democratic candidate is Vic Abundis, a longtime Park Hill School District teacher. He had hoped to challenge 6th Congressional District Rep. Sam Graves, a Republican, but dropped out of the race before the primary.
House District 14 (parts of Clay and Platte counties)
In 2018, Democrat Matt Sain managed to flip this district by just 85 votes. But he chose not to run for re-election, paving the way for two newcomers.
About 1,000 more Democratic voters turned out than Republicans in the 2020 primary, but the race is still considered competitive.
Republican Eric Holmes retired from a long military career in 2014 and also worked in the telecom industry.
Democrat Ashley Aune owns and operates a marketing agency.
House District 15 (Gladstone and part of North Kansas City)
Democratic incumbent Jon Carpenter is term-limited and can't run for re-election; but he is a candidate for the embattled Clay County Commission.
The 15th District race is notable due to the Republican candidate, Steve West, who was denounced by his kids and the Missouri Republican Party for bigoted and anti-Semitic remarks he made in 2018 on a talk show and website. West owns a foundation repair company.
Democrat Maggie Nurrenbern is a Spanish teacher at North Kansas City High School.
House District 16 (parts of Clay County, including Liberty and North Kansas City)
The incumbent, Republican Noel Shull, is term limited in this competitive district, with nearly evenly matched primary results.
Democrats think they can flip this seat and Democrat James Shackelford has outraised his opponent as of early September. Shackelford is obtaining his Master of Public Administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Republican Chris Brown is a licensed realtor and family real estate business owner.
House District 24 (parts of Kansas City and Jackson County)
This is a safe Democratic seat with no Republican challenger. Democrat Emily Weber is running against Libertarian Andrew Miller, who received just 33 votes in the August primary.
Weber has a career in communication, marketing and graphic design. If elected, she may be the first Asian American woman elected to the Missouri Legislature.
House District 31 (parts of Jackson County, including Blue Springs)
This is a competitive district, with the winning Republican and Democratic candidates seeing similar vote counts in the August primary.
Republican Dan Stacy was first elected in 2016 and is seeking re-election. In 2016, he defeated incumbent Rep. Sheila Solon.
Democrat Rhonda Dolan has outpaced Stacy in fundraising as of early September. She is founder and CEO of UDO, a mobile technology company, and has worked as a business consultant.
House District 34 (Lee's Summit and Greenwood)
This seat has been vacant since July 2019, when Rep. Rebecca Roeber died months after suffering serious injuries in March 2019 car accident.
Her husband, Rick Roeber of Lee’s Summit, is running to fill her seat. He is a pastor who has been known as “Barefoot Rick,” for his barefoot running ministry.
The Kansas City Star recently published an expose in which several of Roeber’s adult children from a previous marriage accused him of abuse years ago. Roeber strenuously denies those allegations, but some Republicans are calling for him to drop out of the race.
The Democrat in the race is Chris Hager, an IT systems engineer from Lee’s Summit. He received more votes in the August primary than Roeber, and this is another seat that could flip in November.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show that Carpenter is term limited.
Lynn Horsley is a freelance journalist in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter @LynnHorsley.