VOTERS GUIDE: Candidates for Missouri House of Representatives

Friday, August 3, 2012 | 3:05 p.m. CDT; updated 2:23 p.m. CDT, Monday, August 6, 2012

WHAT'S THE JOB? The Missouri House of Representatives comprises of 163 members, one for each of the state’s House districts.

State representatives must be at least 24, be a qualified voter of the state for two years and be a qualified voter of the district they wish to represent for one year.

Representatives currently earn $35,915 annually and can serve four two-year terms in the House.

After the November general election, Boone County will be represented by five House districts whose boundaries were drawn during reapportionment after the 2010 census:

  • The 44th District includes northeastern Boone County.
  • The 45th District includes part of central Boone County, including northern Columbia.
  • The 46th District includes part of central Boone County, including parts of southern Columbia.
  • The 47th district represents parts of northwestern Boone County, eastern Howard County, northern Cooper County and southern Randolph County.
  • The 50th District includes southern Boone County, parts of northern Cole and Moniteau Counties, and eastern Cooper County.

For districts representing Boone County and parts of mid-Missouri, the incumbents are Democratic state Reps. Chris Kelly in the 45th District and Stephen Webber in the 46th District as well as Republican state Rep. Caleb Jones in the 50th District. Kelly and Jones are unopposed in their bids for office, but Webber faces a Republican challenger in the general election.

The candidates

44th District

Ken Jacob (D)

Ken Jacob is running for his second stint in the Missouri legislature. Jacob served in the state House from 1983 to 1996 and in the state Senate from 1997 to 2004 before term limits forced him out of office. Jacob was the Democratic leader for part of his tenure in the Senate.

Jacob said he is in the race to raise awareness about the need to commit more state resources to higher education. Jacob said he is running to build consensus and work across party lines to solve the state's problems. Jacob also wants to expand health care coverage, specifically the state's Medicaid program under the provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

Jacob was born in St. Louis but moved to Columbia in 1968.

Since leaving the legislature, Jacob has been chairman of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission and the executive director of the State, County, Municipal Employees Council 72. He also served as general counsel in the state auditor's office under former auditor Susan Montee.

  • Personal: Age 63. Married to Nancy Jacob. They have two children.
  • Education: Bachelor's degree in education from MU, 1971; master's in education from MU, 1976; master's in public administration from MU, 1986; law degree from MU, 1989.
  • Occupation: Jacob was the executive director of Front Door Counseling and Youth Center before being elected to the General Assembly. He was also a practicing attorney in the Ken Jacob Law Office from 1990 to 2007.
  • Campaign website:

Caleb Rowden (R)

Rowden said he is open to discussing all options when an issue emerges so long as the state budget is part of the conversation.

"I always try to take everything back to the budget."

An advocate of limited government, Rowden said he doesn't think the government can create jobs but it does have "the power and duty to create a solid foundation for the private sector." He supports small business entrepreneurship, implementing new technology in schools and following through on issues that state lawmakers declare as priorities, such as higher education funding. 

  • Personal: Age 29 years. Married to Aubrey Rowden.
  • Occupation: Owner of Clarius Interactive, a marketing and media management company.
  • Education: Graduate of Rock Bridge High School, 2001; attended MU (2001); attended Global University, an online Bible college, 2002. 
  • Background: Musician; board member of Love INC; member of the Northwest Rotary Club; former pastor at Christian Chapel.
  • Campaign website:

Mike Becker (R)

Becker said he is running for office to improve education and get support for an idea that he says will help students earn degrees.

Becker, a Vietnam veteran, wants to have courses in high schools that students could take to earn junior college credit. High schools, he said, could form partnerships with universities through which students could learn from professors' recorded lectures.

Becker earned only a high school degree and said that's part of the reason he feels so strongly about his idea.

"I know the value of getting a degree," he said.

Becker recently retired from his job as a UPS truck driver. "I am retired and I have all this time and energy," he said.

  • Personal: Age 65. He is married to Ann Becker. They have two children and six grandchildren.
  • Education: High school diploma. He attended Jefferson County Junior College.
  • Occupation: Retired, former UPS truck driver.

Chris Dwyer (R)

Chris Dwyer is fond of saying "the greater the government, the greater the poverty," usually using the line when discussing his support of limited government. 

"I find it ironic that we are smart enough to purchase cars and houses, raise our children, but not smart enough to buy a light bulb."

Dwyer's bid for a House seat is not his first venture into politics. In 2010, he ran unsuccessfully against Republican U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer in Missouri's 9th Congressional District. Two years before that, Dwyer ran unsuccessfully against Republican Kurt Schaefer and Democrat Chuck Graham in the 19th District of the state Senate. 

In both attempts, Dwyer ran as a Libertarian.

Dwyer said he wants to make Missouri a "right-to-work" state and move away from an income tax and toward a consumption tax.

  • Personal: Age 45. Married to Maxine Dwyer. They have two children.
  • Occupation: Farmer, landlord and inventory manager at three local McDonald's.
  • Education: Data processing classes at North County Tech School.
  • Backgroud: Formerly owned a pest control business; served in the U.S. Air Force, working in entomology and water purification.
  • Campaign website:

Dennis Smith (R)

Smith is seeking his second stint in the Missouri legislature, having previously served in the Missouri Senate and in the House, representing the Springfield area. He was born and raised on a Kentucky farm before moving to Missouri.

His main platform is his "three-legged stool" approach of education, transportation and job growth. Asked at a League of Women Voters forum what his greatest strength is, Smith said his experience as a legislator has helped him learn how to work with people.

"I am running for office to stop the arguing and to get things done," he said.

Smith moved to Columbia after leaving the Senate in 1994 to become the first CEO of Missouri Employer's Mutual, a worker's compensation insurance company. He left the company in 2009 and was replaced by former Gov. Roger Wilson.

He is chair of the Show-Me State Games Steering Committee.

  • Personal: Age 69. Married to Carolyn. 
  • Education: Bachelor's degree from Oklahoma Baptist University, 1965; chartered life underwriter designation from the American College of Life Underwriters, 1973.
  • Occupation: Worked for Traveler's Insurance Co. starting in 1967. In 1973, he joined Grant Davis Agencies, Inc., which became Dennis Smith Associates. The company provides an array of business consulting services.

45th District

Chris Kelly (D)

Kelly currently represents Columbia and Boone County as the 24th District state representative but is running in the new 45th District to retain his House seat.

Kelly supports finding ways to fully fund both higher education and K-12 education as well as reforming the state's corrections system to make it more cost effective.

He was first elected to the House in 1982 and served six terms until 1994, all of which were exempt from term limit laws, which were established in 1992. Kelly was re-elected in 2008 and can serve in the House until 2016.

He is the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee for Public Safety and Corrections and is a member of the House Budget Committee, among others.

Kelly is unopposed in both the primary and general elections.

  • Personal: Age 65. Married to Nanette Laughrey. They have two children.
  • Occupation: State representative, attorney.
  • Education: Bachelor's degree in history from Marist College, 1968; Juris Doctorate from MU, 1988.
  • Background: Member of the American Whitewater and Missouri Whitewater Associations; member of Columbia Rotary Club and Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Parish; former Boone County associate circuit judge; former chairman of the Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Commission and former Boone County clerk.
  • Campaign website:

46th District

Stephen Webber (D)

Webber is seeking his third term in the House since first being elected in 2008.

While in the House, Webber has been the top Democrat on the Job Creation and Economic Development Committee, which he said has been a big priority.

"I am going to do what I can to help this community thrive," he said.

He also has served on the House Rules, Labor and Homeland Security committees.

Webber, whose U.S. Marine Corps service included two tours of duty in Iraq, said education is his top priority.

If re-elected, he also wants to use his position to help create incentives for the Ameren-Westinghouse small modular nuclear reactor project, including tax credits and rebates.

Another goal, he said, is to push for what he calls "equal rights" legislation, including banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.

"In Missouri you can be fired for being gay," he said.

  • Personal: Age 29. Single.
  • Education: Bachelor's degree in economics from St. Louis University, 2006; attending MU School of Law.
  • Occupation: State representative; student.
  • Background: Earned Eagle Scout rank with Boy Scout Troop 707 of Columbia; represented Missouri at American Legion Boys Nation while attending Hickman High School; veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and the war in Iraq; former aide to U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill; member of Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America and the American Legion; volunteer for Missouri Boys State.
  • Campaign website:

Fred Berry (R)

Berry has a lot of ideas but says he's willing to admit there are people smarter than him. He often quotes colleagues, officials and experts when talking about public policy and issues he supports. Berry's primary goal is to fix the economy. With that in mind, he said, he opposes tax increases.

"The problem is you don't improve the business environment by raising taxes."

Berry supports replacing the state income tax with a higher sales tax and limiting business regulations. He said he is running for office to improve the state and local business climate. He wants to limit the involvement of the federal government, move toward a solely consumption-based tax system and make Missouri a "right-to-work" state.

Berry is unopposed in the the 46th District Republican primary. 

  • Personal: Age 65. Married to Sherry Berry. They have three children.
  • Occupation: Retired U.S. Army colonel.
  • Education: Bachelor's degree in English literature from Arizona State University, 1969; master's degree in systems management from the University of Southern California, 1981; master's degree in public administration from Pennsylvania State University, 1989.
  • Background: Former director of Military Education Policy at the Pentagon; various managerial positions with Wells Fargo Alarm Services; state grass roots coordinator for Missouri Fair Tax; member of the Show-Me Institute; member of Boone County and Columbia Pachyderm Clubs; Fourth Ward committeeman for Boone County Republican Central Committee.
  •  Campaign website:

47th District

Nancy Copenhaver (D)

Nancy Copenhaver wants to return to Jefferson City to once again use her experience as an educator to shape public policy.

Copenhaver was elected to the state House for the first time in 2000, representing  parts of Boone, Chariton, Howard and Randolph counties in the 22nd District. During her tenure as a representative she was a member of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, the Education Appropriations Committee and the Veteran Affairs Committee, among others.

She supports restructuring the state tax code, increasing the state's cigarette tax and establishing an Internet sales tax, which would help "level the playing field for brick and mortar businesses."

Although she has a list of priorities, Copenhaver said education has to be the "crucial issue" because it is essential for economic development and the future of Missouri.

  • Personal: Age 63. Married to Paul Copenhaver.
  • Occupation: Retired teacher
  • Education: Bachelor's degree in business education, 1972; master's degree in business education, 1974; master's degree in counseling/guidance, 1980. All her degrees are from Northeast Missouri State University, now Truman State University.
  • Background: Charter member of the League of Women Voters; member of Moberly Area Chamber of Commerce; deacon and elder at Coates Street Presbyterian Church; former deputy clerk for Randolph County; former member of the Moberly Planning and Zoning Commission and the Moberly City Council; former Moberly High School teacher.
  • Campaign website:

John Wright (D)

Wright said his Columbia roots and his love for the community enticed him to run for office.

"I believe that public service is an important part of helping our community to maintain its strength and character through time," he said.

A Hickman High School graduate, Wright said Missouri has "under-invested" in education in the past decade, a trend he would work to reverse if elected.

"In the knowledge economy of our time, our most important economic input is the skills and creativity of our work force," he said.

Wright is a board of member of Junior Achievement of Mid-Missouri and is scheduled to be a visiting scholar at MU in the fall semester, a position he would resign if he wins his party's nomination.

  • Personal: Age 36. Single.
  • Education: Bachelor's degree in economics from Yale University, 1998; law degree from Yale, 2005.
  • Occupation: Managing partner of Rollins Capital, an investment company, since 2008. He had two stints (2000 to 2002 and 2005 to 2008) as a principal at Silver Lake Partners, a technology investment firm. He was an analyst at Goldman Sachs from 1998 to 2000.

Mitch Richards (R)

Although Mitch Richards might lean to more libertarian points of view, he said he can reach voters from all parties.

"I'm young, I'm consistent, and I believe in this country," Richards said at a nomination meeting of Boone County Republicans in June.

While he was a delegate for Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul at the state convention, Richards said he would stand behind Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee for president.

Richards, who grew up in Montana and studied abroad, owns and operates a language consultancy service for international clients. Since moving to Columbia in 2008, Richards has been politically active, working on campaigns opposing the use of eminent domain and the installation of video cameras in downtown Columbia. He is a member of Keep Columbia Free.

Richards previously ran for the First Ward seat on the Columbia City Council but was unsuccessful. He was chosen by county Republicans to seek the 47th District House seat shortly before the end of June after three previous candidates dropped out.

  • Personal: Age 30. Single.
  • Occupation: Manager and owner of Show-Me Language Services, LLC.
  • Education: Bachelor’s degree in history from University of Montana, 2006; master’s degree in East European studies from the University of Bologna, 2008.
  • Background: Treasurer for Keep Columbia Free; served on Columbia's Citizen Police Review Board; spokesman for the Fully Informed Jury Association; co-hosted a radio show on KOPN.
  • Campaign website:

50th District 

Caleb Jones (R)

Caleb Jones is running for office a second time for the same reason he ran for last time.

"I want Missouri to continue to grow and be a better place." 

He added that Missouri needs to have a better pro-business attitude and foster current businesses to create jobs. He said he would help do this by embracing new technology and continuing to encourage an educated workforce.

Jones is seeking his second term to the state House of Representatives. He lives in California, Mo. and practices law with his brother, Clayton Jones, at law offices in Columbia, California and Kansas City.

Elected to the state House in 2010, Jones currently represents Cooper, Moniteau, Pettis and Morgan Counties. He serves as vice-chairman of the House Economic Development Committee.

He is running unopposed in both the primary and general election.

  • Personal: Age 32. Married to Lindsey Jones.
  • Occupation: State representative; attorney.
  • Education: Bachelor's degree in agricultural economics from MU, 2002; law degree from MU School of law, 2007.
  • Background: deacon at First Christian Church of California; member of the California, Tipton and Boonville Chambers of Commerce; member of the Farm Bureau and Monit; former aide to Congressman Kenny Hulshof; former special assistant in U.S. Department of Agriculture under President George W. Bush.
  • Campaign website:

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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