Schupp takes Missouri Senate seat but Republicans expand legislative majorities

St. Louis Post Dispatch

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

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JEFFERSON CITY • Republicans cleaned up Tuesday, expanding their majorities in both chambers of the Missouri Legislature.

In Jefferson County, Republican Paul Wieland of Imperial snagged a Senate seat that had been held by Democrats, easily beating Rep. Jeff Roorda of Barnhart.

A notable exception was in the 24th Senate District in St. Louis County, where Jill Schupp prevailed despite the famous name of her opponent, Republican Jay Ashcroft. The race turned nasty toward the end and turned some voters off.

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Preliminary estimates showed that the GOP is likely to control the Senate 25-9 and the House by a historic 116-47, at least. That would be a pickup of one Senate seat and six House seats.

“Not a bad night,” said House Speaker-designate John Diehl, R-Town and Country. “It’s truly been an historic night.”

When the new members take office in January, Republicans will have more than enough votes to override vetoes of Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat. An override requires 109 votes in the House and 23 in the Senate.

Republicans were gleeful about their near-sweep of Jefferson County’s legislative delegation. Nixon is from De Soto, in Jefferson County.

In addition to winning the Senate seat, the GOP took six of the seven House seats in the county. To do that, they had to defend two Republican incumbents, snag two open seats and oust two Democratic incumbents — Reps. T.J. McKenna of Festus and Michael Frame of Eureka.

Scott Dieckhaus, executive director of the House Republican Campaign Committee, said voters had embraced the GOP’s priorities, which included enacting a gradual income tax cut over the governor’s veto.

“I think Republicans put forward an actual plan to stimulate the economy,” Dieckhaus said. “To win six of seven seats in the governor’s home county, I think that certainly is a statement on where the county is and that Jefferson County is not where Jay Nixon is.”

The House Republican Campaign Committee raised more than $2.8 million for this election and ran attack ads against targeted Democrats, tying them to President Barack Obama, higher taxes and the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans won nearly every targeted race despite a major push from Democratic officials led by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. She contributed more than $715,000 this year to the Missouri Democratic State Committee to help with legislative campaigns.

But a president’s party historically fares poorly in a midterm election, and low turnout appeared to be reinforcing that pattern this year.

With no high-profile statewide races on the ballot, energizing the base was difficult, said Roorda, who lost the Jefferson County state Senate race by 9 points.

“This is just Democrats staying home and folks that don’t like the president speaking pretty loudly,” Roorda said.

Though all 163 House seats and half the 34 state Senate seats were on the ballot, most of the political parties’ firepower was focused on about 20 House races and two Senate races.

Among the casualties Tuesday were Democratic Rep. Vicki Englund of south St. Louis County, who lost to former Rep. Cloria Brown, a Republican. The two were competing in the 94th District for the fourth time.

In 2012, Englund won by only 313 votes. This time, it wasn’t even close — Brown won by 1,089 votes.

Meanwhile, in the 90th District in Kirkwood, which is being vacated by Rep. Rick Stream, Democrat Deb Lavender, a physical therapist, defeated Republican Gina Jaksetic. Lavender had tried three times to unseat Stream.

McKenna had been the fourth member of his family to represent Jefferson County in the Legislature, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, uncle and cousin. On Tuesday, he lost a rematch to Republican Becky Ruth, a retired teacher, in the 114th District.

Frame lost to Republican Shane Roden in the 111th District. And Republicans won two open seats in Jefferson County — the 112th and the 113th. The winners were Rob Vescovo and Dan Shaul, respectively.

The only Democratic House member in Jefferson County who was still standing was Rep. Ben Harris of Hillsboro, who defeated Republican Michael McGirl of Potosi in the 118th District. That district includes part of Washington County.

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In the Senate, Schupp will replace Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue.

By 11:10 p.m., Ashcroft had called Schupp to concede the race. Schupp said she couldn’t wait to get started in her new role.

“I’m really excited,” Schupp said. “I’m very happy the voters are looking forward to a different direction in Missouri by electing me.”

Schupp, 59, got her start in politics by serving on the Ladue School Board and the Creve Coeur City Council. She has been in the Missouri House for six years.

Schupp ran on fully funding the public school aid formula and accepting federal money to expand Medicaid to the working poor. She also blasted the Legislature’s imposition of a 72-hour waiting period for abortions.

Ashcroft, 41, was a newcomer to politics, but his name is well known because his father, John Ashcroft, served in a string of state and federal offices — including as governor, U.S. senator and U.S. attorney general — over three decades.

Jay Ashcroft, who has lived in St. Louis County since 1998, is a lawyer in Clayton at the Ashcroft Law Firm, founded by his father.

The district covers a wide swath of central and west St. Louis County.

Some voters said the negative campaigning turned them off.

“I thought what Mr. Ashcroft did to her was pretty disgusting. And I don’t think he spoke well for himself, either,” Meryl Dewoskin said after casting her ballot for Schupp at the Mason Ridge Elementary School in Town and Country.

Dewoskin split her ticket by voting for Rick Stream in the St. Louis County executive race.

Voter Tom Nagel of Town and Country said the Ashcroft campaign had contacted him five times while he didn’t receive a single call on behalf of Schupp.

Still, Nagel said, the negativity of the campaign left him undecided.

“I won’t know who I’ll vote for until I’m looking at the lever,” he said outside Mason Ridge Elementary. “It didn’t get quite as nasty as (the Illinois gubernatorial race). But they both threw a lot of mud.”

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