Voters choose nominees for Columbia-area seats in state House, Senate

Tuesday, August 7, 2012 | 11:20 p.m. CDT; updated 11:50 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 8, 2012
John Wright and his supporters celebrate his win of the nomination for Missouri's 47th District on Tuesday night at the General Store in Rocheport.

*This story has been corrected to reflect that the 19th Senate District includes Boone and Cooper counties.

COLUMBIA — Democrat John Wright and Republican Caleb Rowden were the winners in the only two contested primary races for state House seats representing Columbia and Boone County.

Wright defeated former state representative Nancy Copenhaver in the race for the Democrats' nomination in the 47th District House race. Wright collected 1,304 votes, or 64.1 percent, to Copenhaver's 731 votes, or 35.9 percent.

The 47th District includes parts of Boone, Cooper, Howard and Randolph counties. Wright benefited extensively from Boone County voters, receiving 1,101 of his total votes from the county.

Wright gathered with about 50 supporters at the Rocheport General Store to watch the results. He ate mint chocolate chip ice cream and talked to supporters as his family watched the votes from a computer screen. 

"I feel great. I am surrounded by friends and family. I will be able to sleep tonight no matter what," he said. 

After it became clear he would win the race, Wright addressed the crowd. He described his victory as a "humbling experience" and said he had the "utmost respect" for his opponent.

He added that he would continue to run on a platform promoting early childhood education, public education and creating a better business climate for small businesses.

Wright will go on to face Republican Mitch Richards in the November general election.

In the 44th District contest for the Republican nomination, Rowden emerged from a field of four candidates to win the primary. He received 1,099 votes, or 40.6 percent. Dennis Smith was second with 701 votes, or 25.9 percent. Mike Becker received 490 votes, or 18.1 percent, and Chris Dwyer received 415 votes, or 15.3 percent.

Early Tuesday night, Rowden said he and his wife were watching the campaign results come in on one screen and the Olympics on another. Rowden's victory came primarily as a result of voters in Boone County, which comprises most of the 44th House District. The district also includes parts of southern Randolph County.

Rowden said his priorities include rebuilding the economy and being an advocate for entrepreneurship.

"I don't think it's the government's job to create jobs but rather to create stability," he said. 

He said running against Smith, a former state legislator, changed the way he campaigned during the primary and prepared him well for running against his general election opponent, Ken Jacob, another former state legislator.

"I think I'm as ready as I'll ever be," Rowden said. "Campaigning with Dennis gave us the opportunities to prepare for the time to come."

For the coming election Rowden said that his campaign was preparing to release both political ads and informational videos and that he is going to "hit the ground running with four feet."

Uncontested races

Every other primary race in local legislative elections was uncontested. Here's how the November general election ballot shaped up.

Senate District 19: Incumbent Republican Sen. Kurt Schaefer is running for his second term and will defend his seat against Democrat state Rep. Mary Still. The 19th District includes Boone and Cooper counties*.

House District 45: Incumbent Democrat Chris Kelly, who represents the 24th District now, has no Republican opponent for the general election. He is seeking his third term as a state representative since being elected in 2008. It would make his ninth term overall in the House. The 45th District includes parts of central and northern Columbia.

House District 46: Incumbent Democrat Stephen Webber, who represents the 23rd District now, will defend his seat against Republican opponent Fred Berry, who has never served as a state legislator. Webber is seeking his third term. The 46th District includes much of southwestern Columbia.

House District 50: Incumbent Republican Caleb Jones of California, Mo., ran unopposed during the primary and does not have a Democratic challenger for the general election. Jones will be seeking his second term as a state representative. The 50th District includes parts of Boone, Cole, Moniteau and Cooper counties.

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