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Columbia Missourian

Schaefer unseats Graham, wins 19th District

By Jenn Herseim
November 5, 2008 | 1:51 a.m. CST
Robert Brown, left, and his wife, Linda Lou, center, chat with family friend and Democratic candidate for Senate Chuck Graham at the 2008 presidential election watch party at The Tiger hotel in Columbia on Tuesday evening.

COLUMBIA — Overcoming an election year that favored the Democratic ticket across the nation, Republican Kurt Schaefer unseated incumbent Chuck Graham to become the 19th District’s state senator-elect. 


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Voters in the 19th District, which encompasses Boone and Randolph counties, favored Schaefer by 48.5 percent; 46.8 percent went for Democrat candidate Graham and 4.7 percent for Libertarian candidate Chris Dwyer.

"Shock" was Schaefer's first reaction while he watched election results from his campaign party at the Stoney Creek Inn.

“We were the underdog the whole time,” Schaefer said. "We got a feeling from the people we were talking to going door-to-door around the county that people were ready for change. And, we feel that with this vote they wanted to see something different. I intend to live up to that."

Schaefer won 44, 214 votes to Graham's 42,668. Dwyer took 4,281 votes.

Graham did not respond to calls from the Missourian or make a public statement Tuesday night.

In a contested bid for election that quickly developed into heated campaign attacks from both Schaefer and Graham, Schaefer said Graham was unfit to represent the district in the General Assembly. Throughout his campaign, Schaefer cited Graham’s arrest for drunk driving and his filibuster of a fund for the MU Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, saying the 19th District deserved more.

“The general public is just annoyed with partisan politics and people not getting things done. The key is for people on both sides to make every effort to come together and see what we can do,” Schaefer said.

Schaefer is a Republican with moderate social views. He developed his legal expertise in environmental issues working in the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Natural Resources as a special prosecutor. A MU graduate, Schaefer said he will be an advocate for universities in the 19th District by regaining lost state funds and strengthening MU's research reputation.

Josh Gilzow, a volunteer for Schaefer, said he supports Schaefer for the candidate's centrist views.

"He believes in fiscal conservatism but doesn't like to bring the whole moral side in, which can alienate a lot of people," Gilzow said. An MU graduate, Gilzow said funding for higher education was an important issue in this election. He said Schaefer's negotiation skills as an attorney will make him a better negotiator for the university.

This is the first time Graham has lost an election. Previously, he served in the Senate for one term and in the House of Representatives for two terms. His campaign highlighted his efforts to give students representation in the district and help small town constituents, noting the tornado siren he helped acquire for the small town of Roanoke.

The election marked the first bids by Schaefer and Dwyer for public office. Dwyer said the election was an interesting experience.

"I was always told if you are going to win the 19th District you need a quarter of a million to win, so I said I guess you can count me out," Dwyer said. "But I'll be the person to tell you what I think, whether you believe in me or not."

Dwyer said receiving a letter of support in the mail and hearing people call out his name on the street was a heartening feeling throughout his campaign.

Schaefer said his first move in office will be securing approval for the Katy Trail extension to Kansas City. He was the state prosecutor who negotiated the settlement from the Taum Sauk reservoir failure in 2005, thus securing funds for the trail extension and the dam recovery.

Looking at incentives for economic development and bringing full funding for K-12 schools is also apart of Schaefer's agenda. But after a full day of campaigning that began at 5 a.m., Schaefer said plans to spend Wednesday sleeping in and then celebrating with his wife and two children.