COLUMBIA — Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe and Second Ward candidate Michael Trapp pulled out election victories on Tuesday, as voters solidified the progressive wing of the City Council and rejected Sixth Ward candidate Bill Tillotson's controversial campaign marked with negative advertisements.
With 100 percent of the ballots counted, unofficial returns from Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren showed Hoppe, who has held her Sixth Ward seat since 2006, with 63 percent of the vote and challenger Bill Tillotson with 37 percent. In the Second Ward, Michael Trapp captured 44 percent of the vote to win a three-man race. Bill Pauls got 36 percent and Mike Atkinson received 20 percent.
Hoppe supporters crowded the upstairs of Kampai Sushi downtown, eyes glued to five television screens broadcasting election results. Every so often, her husband, Mike Sleadd, hushed the chattering crowd, announcing results as they rolled in to the Boone County Clerk’s website.
After each announcement, cheers broke out among the 50-person crowd that included Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony, former Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala and Ken Jacob, a Democrat running for 44th District state representative.
The loudest round of applause, though, came with the announcement of the final results, which cut short a speech Hoppe was making to supporters as they prepared to leave the restaurant around 9:30 p.m. Hoppe lifted her arms in victory as the crowd burst into cheers.
When the applause died, Hoppe thanked her supporters.
“I believe the voters sent a loud and clear message that they are bright; they’re astute; they’re perceptive; and they have high standards,” Hoppe said. She ended her speech with a request for supporters to remain involved in city government.
“Democracy and good government do not come easy,” Hoppe said.
Linda Green, a Third Ward resident who attended the party, smiled as the results rolled in.
“It’s wonderful,” she said, adding that the results should send a message to the community and the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, which endorsed Tillotson.
“I hope the message goes out to the whole community to be positive in the campaigns they run,” Green said.
As supporters headed out from his watch party at Sky Hi Bar and Grill, Tillotson seemed to shrink as he watched results trickle in on a laptop.
“We turn into pumpkins, you know,” said one well-wisher, laughing as the hour approached 10 p.m.
“We were up against a very tough opponent,” Tillotson said. “The voters have spoken. We just have to follow through on what they’re wanting.”
Tillotson said he would continue to serve on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
“We’ll move forward. That’s all we can do.”
Tillotson said he planned to remove his politician's hat for the next couple of days. He planned to enjoy a cocktail or two with his wife when he returned home.
Tillotson slipped into the parking lot around 9:45 p.m. to place a congratulatory call to Hoppe from his iPhone.
“Hats off to Barbara Hoppe,” he conceded, once inside. “I wish her great success in her new term.”
The Sixth Ward voters' support of Hoppe was overwhelming. Rosemary Neuffer cast her ballot for the incumbent at Shepard Elementary School. She said Hoppe has fought to maintain the neighborhood's integrity.
"I feel like she listens to her constituents," Neuffer said.
Hoppe's victory over Tillotson enables her to continue as the longest-serving council member.
Outgoing Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill, who decided not to seek re-election in October, was the second-longest serving member. He was first elected to the seat in 2009.
About 40 supporters of Michael Trapp gathered in a dimly lit corner of The Rome restaurant to watch Second Ward election results trickle in. When the crowd learned that Trapp had won the election, a cheer shook the lampshades next to the tables.
A cheery-faced Trapp thanked the crowd and delivered his first public address as a Second Ward councilman.
“I was told that this is my true introduction to Columbia,” Trapp said. “Some people don’t start following you until now.”
Trapp said he looked forward to serving the Second Ward with diligence and good-humor.
Current Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony said she was “darn glad” Trapp secured the victory.
“Mike will bring a wonderful sense of calm, reasoned and rational thinking to the council,” Anthony said.
Fellow Second Ward candidate Mike Atkinson visited Trapp's victory gathering.
"Mike put forth a herculean effort," Atkinson said. "If he puts as much work into the City Council as he did into running, he'll do a great job."
Trapp said he was touched by the level of camaraderie among the three candidates. At one event, Trapp said, Atkinson fixed Trapp's protruding shirt collar.
"I guess that showed me why single guys don't run for council," Trapp joked.
Pauls watched the election results at a party in his home with friends, family and Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl and Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley. Once the results became clear, Pauls gathered the remaining crowd of 20 around the kitchen island, overstuffed with food.
"I did the best I could," Pauls said. "It's like the marathon: there's only one winner, and I ran the best I could."
Then Pauls retreated from the crowd to leave a voice mail for Trapp, conceding the race.
Trapp’s victory comes on the heels of an impromptu campaign for City Council. He entered the race in January when he saw no one had filed for the Second Ward seat vacated by Thornhill.
Since then Trapp’s life has been a blur. The first-time politician honed his skills on the fly, slowly developing his political acumen at each campaign forum and public discussion. He crafted his positions around rebuilding the Second Ward’s neighborhood infrastructure, contending sidewalk construction and better road upkeep would create a tighter-knit community.
In the spirit of his campaign slogan, “Neighbors for Michael Trapp,” he walked most of the Second Ward, knocking on 2,750 doors and chatting with residents about their concerns.
Pauls, too, made door-to-door campaign stops a hallmark of his campaign, along with a vow to raise no more than $3,000 for his campaign. He touted his nine-year stint as a Parks and Recreation Commission member and his experience as president of the Hunters Gate Neighborhood Association. Pauls also pushed public safety as a primary campaign issue. It wasn't enough.
Overall, turnout for Tuesday’s election surpassed that of 2009, when the Second and Sixth ward seats were last contested. There were 1,916 ballots cast in the Second Ward on Tuesday, compared to 1,243 in 2009, when Thornhill defeated Allan Sharrock in a race decided by 29 votes.
In the Sixth Ward, 1,414 ballots were cast Tuesday, compared to 1,122 in the 2009 race. Hoppe’s support increased to 890 votes compared to her count of 662 votes in her race against Rod Robison.
Trapp and Hoppe will be sworn in as council members at a special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday in the Council Chambers of the Daniel Boone City Building, 701 E. Broadway.
Missourian reporters Dan Burley and Hannah Cushman contributed to this article.