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Redistricting created some competitive races in Missouri. Do more Democrats have a chance?

A large stone capitol building sits with the sun peeking over the top of the building. A person is walking up the stairs at right.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
A few more Missouri General Assembly seats are more competitive this year. While Democrats are unlikely to break the GOP supermajority in the Statehouse, one analyst says any competition is good.

Democrats have hoped for years to cut into the Republican supermajority in Jefferson City. While the chances of that are slim this election, newly drawn statehouse districts means Republicans may have to fight harder for their seats.

For decades, Democrats have dreamed of cutting into the supermajority Republicans enjoy in the Missouri General Assembly.

There is a chance — a very small chance — that this year Democrats might succeed.

“I expect the Republicans to keep the majorities in both chambers. But redistricting has created more competitive districts on the (Missouri) House side,” says Anita Manion, a political scientist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “So, Democrats have a chance in more districts.”

Redistricting also turned some safe Democratic districts into toss-ups. One of those is House District 17 in Clay County, which includes Claycomo and Pleasant Valley.

The incumbent is Democratic Rep. Mark Ellebracht, a lawyer by trade, first elected in 2016. Ellebracht told KCUR he supports abortion access and increasing teacher pay in Missouri. He was reelected in 2018 with 57% of the vote and in 2020 with 56%.

Still, Ellebracht says he is a little worried this year. He doesn’t see Democrats cutting into the GOP supermajority because he says they've passed legislation — including the new redistricting map — to benefit their own party.

“Supermajorities are also in charge of setting up the campaigns and elections rules, the ethics rules, because they've been in charge for the past 20 years or so,” Ellebracht says.

Ellebracht is being challenged by first-time Republican candidate Bill Allen.

Allen is a Navy veteran who said on a Ballotpedia survey that he wants parents to have a say in K-12 education and that he will defend religious freedom.

He says the race in District 17 might be a microcosm of other legislative races in Missouri.

“This is a great district example because it should lean Democrat, and it was crafted to make sure that it stayed in a Democrat majority,” Allen says. “But yet, with the winds from the federal government, it really looks to me... just from my little, tiny window of door knocking, that it has a very good chance of going Republican.”

Of the 163 House races on the ballot this year, the Missouri Independent suggests that there are more than 100 where Republicans are unopposed or heavily favored.

Seventeen seats are on the ballot in the Senate and the Independent suggests only three are competitive.

But any additional competition, says Manion, is good.

“When I say more competitive districts, we're still talking about less than 20% of the state House districts being competitive, more like 17%," Manion says.

But, she said, that is up from two years ago.

“One example of that is that we see the House Republican Campaign Committee spent money on about 18 races two years ago. So those were races where they thought they needed to put their resources into. And this year, they're spending money in about 29 races.”

Manion says even if Democrats can increase their numbers in Jefferson City, the politics of the General Assembly might remain the same as moderate Republicans disappear, replaced by the hard right faction of the party.

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