In a tight race, Chuck Graham edged out Tim Harlan for the 19th District state Senate nomination in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. Graham will now face Republican Mike Ditmore in the general election Nov. 2.
Graham was all smiles at his post-election party at Boone Tavern. He said he looks forward to unifying the Democratic Party and getting ready for the November election.
“It’s always easier to beat a Republican,” Graham said. “I have a lot more experience and have done a lot for the university,” he said, comparing himself to Ditmore.
Harlan said he will return his focus to his private practice as a Social Security lawyer.
“I always knew it would be a tough race,” he said. “Graham ran a good campaign, and I will be happy to support him in the general election.”
The 19th District represents Boone and Randolph counties. Combining totals from both counties, Graham defeated Harlan by 15,157 votes to 14,046, or 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent.
Incumbent state Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia,was forced out of the Senate by term limits and was unsuccessful Tuesday in his bid for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.
Many voters said Tuesday that the choice between Graham and Harlan was difficult. The candidates share similar views on education, health care and labor, and each was elected three times to the Missouri House of Representatives. Graham is finishing his term as 24th District representative, while Harlan finished his service as 23rd District representative in 2002.
Nancy Bedan of Columbia, who voted for Harlan, said her decision came down to the candidates’ style.
“I appreciate his careful analytical style of legislating,” she said, referring to Harlan’s “careful” deliberation on health-care policies.
The legislature’s role in funding and construction of the Paige Sports Arena at MU was expected to play a role in the election, as it created a stir in forums and advertisements. But few voters on Tuesday said the issue influenced their decision.
Graham sponsored the 2001 bill that allocated $35 million in state money for the construction of the basketball building. While Graham touted the arena’s positive impact on the economy, Harlan slammed the decision in advertisements as an inappropriate use of public money.
Graham’s swipes at Harlan’s voting record while in the House seemed to have more of an impact. Graham took Harlan to task for missing hundreds of votes in his final House term, dubbing him “half-time Harlan.” While Harlan countered that many of those votes were for uncontroversial consent bills, several voters indicated that strategy affected their vote.
Graham’s campaign boasted that he had fought to keep the MU School of Medicine in Columbia and that he wrote legislation to even out spikes in the school foundation formula.
During the primary, Graham proposed removing the state’s $500 limit on gambling losses and increasing the gaming tax to boost funding for education. He also wants to expand his personal-care assistance program, change the tax code and rewrite the foundation formula to make it more equitable.
Ditmore said he congratulates Graham and is looking forward to moving forward in the election.
“It was not a terribly big issue who one the primary,” Ditmore said. “The important thing is how to move Missouri forward with more jobs and a better tax base and doing something about health care with tort reform.”