© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Democrats Handily Flip Missouri Senate Seat In Northland Special Election

Kevin Corlew, Lauren Arthur
Democrat Rep. Lauren Arthur (right) defeated Republican Rep. Kevin Corlew in a special election Tuesday night to fill an unexpired term in the Missouri Senate.

Democrats have taken a Missouri Senate seat previously held by Republicans in the first electoral test since the resignation of GOP Gov. Eric Greitens last week. 

In what's considered a closely divided part of Clay County, Democratic state Rep. Lauren Arthur defeated Republican Rep. Kevin Corlew, gaining neary 60 percent of the vote to Corlew's 40 percent in Tuesday's unofficial results. But her victory doesn't change the fact that Republicans hold strong majorities in both chambers of the legislature.

Credit Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3 file photo
KCUR 89.3 file photo
Lauren Arthur and Ryan Silvey appeared on Statehouse Blend Missouri together in 2017.

Arthur will succeed former GOP Sen. Ryan Silvey, who resigned in January when he was appointed to the state Public Service Commission with two years left on his Senate term. The latest results from the Clay County Board of Election Commissioners may be found here.

In 2016, the district chose Silvey for a second term with 61 percent of the vote. That same year, President Donald Trump won in the district by 4 percentage points over Democrat Hillary Clinton. But two Democrats, U.S. Senate hopeful Jason Kander and gubernatorial candidate Chris Koster, slightly outpaced the Republicans who were ultimately elected statewide.

Arthur, a teacher who has served in the state House since 2015, sounded traditional Democratic themes in her campaign, including support for labor, abortion rights and increased spending on education and social services. She opposed tax cuts approved this year by the Republican-led legislature and was among the first lawmakers to call on Greitens to resign over allegations of sexual impropriety.

Arthur took a break Tuesday night from celebrating with some 200 supporters at Paul & Jack's Tavern in North Kansas City to say she believed Greitens' governing — and not just his behavior — contributed to her victory.

"I think Eric Greitens, during his administration, prioritized the needs of billionaires and corporations and special interests ahead of the needs of working Missourians," Arthur told KCUR. "If anything, this election is a message that that's no longer acceptable."

Credit Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3 file photo
KCUR 89.3 file photo
Republican state Rep. Kevin Corlew will now be running for re-election to his House seat.

Corlew is an attorney who will remain a member of the House, where he has served since 2015 and is facing a re-election campaign.

He acknowledged that "events beyond our control" may have played a factor in the campaign, but said he didn't think his race was a "test case" for Republicans. He also said he is looking forward to gearing up for the Aug. 7 primary and, if he makes it through that, the November general election.

"We've got a House race to continue to work toward the values that I expressed in my campaign," Corlew said Tuesday night. "To make sure we have good paying jobs here in the Northland, to make sure that our schools are world-class, to make sure we have a low tax burden on our seniors and our working families."

About 20 percent of the district's registered voters turned out Tuesday to decide a race in which lots of money was spent on TV ads in the final month, from Corlew and Arthur's campaigns, as well as from outside groups. Democrats like Arthur hope it's a sign of things to come in a year that has been tumultuous for Missouri Republicans.

"I think it shows that when we work hard and we talk to issues that affect working families, talk about growing and strengthening the middle class," Arthur said, "then we can compete anywhere."

Brian Ellison is host of KCUR's Statehouse Blend Missouri and reports on Missouri politics and government. Follow him @ptsbrian.

As a host and contributor at KCUR, I seek to create a more informed citizenry and richer community. I want to enlighten and inspire our audience by delivering the information they need with accuracy and urgency, clarifying what’s complicated and teasing out the complexities of what seems simple. I work to craft conversations that reveal realities in our midst and model civil discourse in a divided world. Follow me on Twitter @ptsbrian or email me at brian@kcur.org.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.