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8 takeaways from Missouri’s election that produced wins for both parties

U.S. Sen. Eric Schmitt throws back a bottle of Budweiser while celebrating defeating beer heiress Trudy Busch Valentine and winning the seat on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, at a Midterm watch party at the Westport Sheraton Chalet in Maryland Heights.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
U.S. Sen. Eric Schmitt throws back a bottle of Budweiser while celebrating defeating beer heiress Trudy Busch Valentine and winning the seat on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, at a Midterm watch party at the Westport Sheraton Chalet in Maryland Heights.

Republicans scored big wins from Eric Schmitt in the U.S. Senate contest and Scott Fitzpatrick in the auditor’s race, but Democrats came out on top in Missouri’s only competitive state Senate contest and gained in the House.

Missouri Republicans now control every statewide office and hold commanding majorities in both chambers of the legislature after Tuesday’s election.

But Election Day wasn’t all bad for Missouri Democrats.

Despite big wins from Eric Schmitt in the U.S. Senate contest and Scott Fitzpatrick in the auditor’s race, Democrats came out on top in the only competitive state Senate contest. They also won seats in the Missouri House, thanks to a combination of strong candidates and a more favorable map.

On a local level, St. Louis Democrats marked a big shift with the election of Alderwoman Megan Green to the Board of Aldermen presidency. But St. Louis County voters chose the status quo with the reelection of County Executive Sam Page.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt celebrates winning the state’s open U.S. Senate seat on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, at a Midterm watch party at the Westport Sheraton Chalet in Maryland Heights.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt celebrates winning the state’s open U.S. Senate seat on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, at a Midterm watch party at the Westport Sheraton Chalet in Maryland Heights.

Schmitt made sure there were no surprises in the U.S. Senate contest

Many felt that Missouri’s U.S. Senate election was basically over from the moment Schmitt won the GOP primary in August.

National parties declined to help either Schmitt or Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine, a telltale sign that they expected Republicans to keep the seat in the GOP column.

Schmitt played it relatively safe after emerging from the August primary. He didn’t do many public events and didn’t debate Busch Valentine. And he bet correctly that a message advocating against President Joe Biden’s agenda would resonate with Missouri voters.

Still, Schmitt’s victory speech in Maryland Heights struck a relatively conciliatory tone, including an appeal to Missourians who didn’t vote for him.

“I hope to earn your trust in the Senate because I intend to be a senator for all Missourians,” he said.

Historic sports memorabilia is displayed in the Shelby County Courthouse’s lobby on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022, in Shelbyville, Mo.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Historic sports memorabilia is displayed in the Shelby County Courthouse’s lobby on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022, in Shelbyville, Mo.

Missouri Democrats have no answer on how to win back rural Missouri

One of the reasons Schmitt won is his absolute dominance in rural parts of the state.

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Schmitt kept Busch Valentine hovering around 20% in lightly populated counties. That occurred even though Busch Valentine spent lots of time attacking Schmitt on his 2013 vote to repeal a ban on the foreign ownership of farmland.

This result showed two things: The first is that the foreign ownership of farmland issue clearly isn’t moving rural voters away from the GOP. The second is that Missouri Democrats have not found a way to get residents who rejected the national Democratic Party to vote for state-based candidates.

Trudy Busch Valentine, Democratic U.S. Senate-hopeful, reacts to seeing supporters after she cast her Midterm ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, outside of City Hall in Ladue.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Trudy Busch Valentine, Democratic U.S. Senate-hopeful, reacts to seeing supporters after she cast her Midterm ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, outside of City Hall in Ladue.

Busch Valentine had a mixed result in Missouri’s suburbs

Despite losing by roughly 13 percentage points, Busch Valentine wasn't a complete bust, some Missouri Democrats believe.

They point to her strong performances in St. Louis, Platte and Clay counties with helping Democratic candidates running for other offices. They include Democratic state Rep. Tracy McCreery, who won the most competitive state Senate race in Missouri this cycle.

But Busch Valentine continued her party’s struggles in suburbs with conservative voters, particularly Jefferson County. Schmitt got more than 60% of the vote there. And legislative candidates rolled to victory, including state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman getting more than 65% of the vote in the 22nd District Senate race.

Missouri Democrats will need to rebuild their competitiveness in conservative suburbs if they want to piece together the urban-suburban-rural coalition they need to win statewide elections. The math doesn’t work otherwise, even with gains in other suburban areas.

Republican U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner (MO-02), center, speaks to family and staff on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, after casting her ballot at the Ballwin Golf Course and Events Center in Ballwin.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Republican U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner (MO-02), center, speaks to family and staff on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, after casting her ballot at the Ballwin Golf Course and Events Center in Ballwin.

Missouri’s GOP congressional delegation could be gaining in influence

As of Wednesday afternoon, it’s not clear how large the GOP majority in the U.S. House will be. It’s possible that it could be a handful of votes, which would make Speaker of the House-in-waiting Kevin McCarthy fairly weak given how fractured his caucus is on certain issues.

But that doesn’t mean that a GOP takeover of the House wouldn’t be impactful, since Republicans would take over important legislative committee chairmanships. Three members of the Missouri delegation – Reps. Jason Smith, Blaine Luetkemeyer and Sam Graves – could wield chairman gavels in 2023.

And while she probably won’t lead a committee, Congresswoman Ann Wagner of Ballwin will head up subcommittees within the House Financial Services and Foreign Affairs committees. She could be a swing vote on issues that have bipartisan crossover, such as providing military and humanitarian support for Ukraine.

Still, with Biden in office and the possibility remaining that Democrats will control the Senate, House Republicans will have to temper their expectations about fundamentally transforming the federal government.

Antar Shafer celebrates the passage of Amendment 3 on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, during a watch party at the Crown Room in downtown St. Louis.

Jon Gitchoff
/
Special to St. Louis Public Radio
Antar Shafer celebrates the passage of Amendment 3 on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, during a watch party at the Crown Room in downtown St. Louis.

Missourians approved recreational marijuana despite significant opposition

When the medical use of marijuana was on the ballot in 2018, Missourians soundly approved it with 65% of the vote.

Four years later, the margin of victory for Amendment 3, known as Legal Missouri 2022 was smaller — 53% to 47%.

Now, Missourians 21 and older will be able to use marijuana on a recreational basis with some limitations. The victory comes despite the amendment facing vocal opposition from both Democrats and Republicans.

While Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and the St. Louis NAACP were in favor of it, opponents included St. Louis Mayor Tishuara Jones, Gov. Mike Parson and the Missouri NAACP.

Some of the reasons for not supporting the amendment included possession limits and an industry model that is likely to benefit businesses with existing medical licenses.

But those for Amendment 3 argued that voting no meant waiting for either the Missouri legislature to take action and pass cannabis legislation or waiting another two years for a different initiative petition.

Missouri state Democrats likely benefited from a new district map

On the congressional scale, Missouri’s new redistricting map kept the status quo, electing six Republicans and two Democrats to Congress.

However, the new Missouri House map, created earlier this year by a bipartisan redistricting commission, likely led to Democratic seat pickups.

Democrats in the House won newly drawn seats in the Springfield, Boone County and Kansas City areas while holding onto more competitive seats. The party gained a total of three seats.

When the map was agreed to in February, more competitive statehouse races were predicted, with Democrats possibly gaining a little more leverage.

For the Missouri Senate, the new map, which was agreed to by a panel of judges, made the 24th Senate District more competitive than the previous one, which favored Democrats.

However, Democrat Tracy McCreery kept the seat blue on Election Day, winning 53% of the vote.

Dr. Sam Page, democratic candidate for St. Louis County executive's office, greets Wesley Bell during Missouri’s Midterm election on Tuesday, November 8th, 2022 at the Machinist’s District 9 Hall, Bridgeton, MO.
Theo Welling
/
Special to St. Louis Public Radio
Dr. Sam Page, democratic candidate for St. Louis County executive's office, greets Wesley Bell during Missouri’s Midterm election on Tuesday, November 8th, 2022 at the Machinist’s District 9 Hall, Bridgeton, MO.


The progressive wing of the Democratic Party is now a permanent force in St. Louis 

Not too long ago, the appeal of a candidate like Megan Green was limited to the wards around Tower Grove Park.

But for the second time in 19 months, the more progressive bloc has won a citywide election, with Green defeating fellow Alderman Jack Coatar 55% to 45% for the last five months of Lewis Reed’s term as president of the Board of Aldermen. With the win, she became the first woman to hold that office in the city’s history.

Green was endorsed by Mayor Tishaura Jones, who was also elected on a platform backed by progressives.

Green won 10 of the new 14 wards, including every ward in north St. Louis. She was likely helped by the endorsement of both Jones and U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, who also helped Green knock on doors in the closing days of the election.

Green said she will run for a full term in the office in April.

Charas Norell, 28, of south St. Louis, demonstrates in support of abortion rights on Monday, July 4, 2022, in downtown St. Louis. “My body belongs to me, it doesn’t belong to anyone else,” she said. “I’m not going to stand for someone else taking my rights away.”
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Charas Norell, 28, of south St. Louis, demonstrates in support of abortion rights on Monday, July 4, 2022, in downtown St. Louis. “My body belongs to me, it doesn’t belong to anyone else,” she said. “I’m not going to stand for someone else taking my rights away.”

Missouri’s abortion ban could loom large in 2024

Unlike in other states, the demise of Roe v. Wade did not seem to have much impact on statewide elections. Schmitt won comfortably even though some Democrats contended Missouri’s ban on most abortions would energize voters against the GOP.

That doesn’t mean the issue's impact on Missouri elections is necessarily over.

Opponents of Missouri’s abortion ban could gather signatures to repeal and replace the law. And that could influence statewide elections for governor and the U.S. Senate in 2024 – especially if Missouri Democrats decide to nominate female candidates to statewide office who effectively stress abortion rights.

It’s also possible voters may support repealing and replacing the current law and still vote for GOP candidates for governor or the U.S. Senate as they have done with other ballot issues.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarakkellogg

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann
Copyright 2022 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Since entering the world of professional journalism in 2006, Jason Rosenbaum dove head first into the world of politics, policy and even rock and roll music. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Rosenbaum spent more than four years in the Missouri State Capitol writing for the Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri Lawyers Media and the St. Louis Beacon. Since moving to St. Louis in 2010, Rosenbaum's work appeared in Missouri Lawyers Media, the St. Louis Business Journal and the Riverfront Times' music section. He also served on staff at the St. Louis Beacon as a politics reporter. Rosenbaum lives in Richmond Heights with with his wife Lauren and their two sons.
Sarah Kellogg
Lippmann returned to her native St. Louis after spending two years covering state government in Lansing, Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and followed (though not directly) in Maria Altman's footsteps in Springfield, also earning her graduate degree in public affairs reporting. She's also done reporting stints in Detroit, Michigan and Austin, Texas. Rachel likes to fill her free time with good books, good friends, good food, and good baseball.
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