Incumbent state representatives in Boone County swept their bids for re-election Tuesday, while political newcomer Judy Baker, a Democrat, dominated her late-arriving Republican opponent, Bob Northup, to win the 25th District seat in the Missouri House.
Baker defeated Northup with 68 percent of the vote with 78 percent of the precincts reporting. She will replace state Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, also a Democrat, who was prevented by term limits from seeking the office again.
The 25th District includes much of eastern and southern Columbia.
After emerging from a field of five candidates in the August Democratic primary, Baker faced a formidable challenge in Republican Joel Jeffries, who gained name recognition with an impressive yet unsuccessful bid to unseat Wilson in 2002.
Jeffries, however, withdrew only weeks before the election to accept an appointment from Gov. Bob Holden to the Board of Probation and Parole. His replacement, Northup, a hearing-aid salesman, tried to catch up by putting the rush on yard signs and attending multiple candidate forums.
Baker said throughout her campaign that she could do well in Jefferson City because of her experience in health care and economics, two major issues in this election. Baker owns Cura Healthsystems Consulting and teaches economics at Columbia College.
Celebrating at party headquarters with fellow Democrats, Baker was delighted with the election returns.
“I feel absolutely exuberant, relaxed and incredibly happy to be even considered for this seat at this level, to be given the confidence of the voters,” she said. “I’m really excited about doing the job more so than campaigning, and I am ready to switch gears.”
Northup, who emphasized education, tort reform and a northern bypass of Columbia during his brief campaign, previously waged unsuccessful campaigns for state Senate in 1984 and 1992 and for Boone County Southern District commissioner in 1986.
“I’ve done what I’m supposed to do ... I think I fought a good fight for 38 days, and I worked my heart out,” he said. “However the outcome, I feel that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
Democrat Jeff Harris won a second House term with 67 percent of the vote with 25 of 30 precincts reporting. He beat Republican challenger Dan Fischbach. Harris, 40, is House minority whip, the third-ranking Democrat.
“I enjoy campaigns, meeting people from every walk of life, from every background and visiting with them and listening to them,” Harris said. “Those are things I enjoy about service in the legislature, and those are also things I enjoy about a campaign.”
Fischbach, a retired Navy pilot who moved to Columbia seven years ago, never mounted a serious challenge, citing private problems and Harris’ overwhelming advantage in fund-raising. He said he tried to use the campaign to raise important issues.
“I’ve had a lot of people thank me for running because you need two candidates to have an election,” Fischbach said. “I feel very upbeat about what I have done.”
The 23rd District covers much of western Columbia.
Voters decided that incumbent Steve Hobbs deserved a second term as their state representative.
The Mexico Republican won 62 percent of the vote in 30 of 36 precincts. He defeated former UPS truck driver Lloyd Becker in the district that includes parts of Boone, Audrain and Monroe counties.
“We’ve got a lot to get done,” said Hobbs. “We’ve got to make sure we have a more stable fund for K-12 education. And there’s a lot we can do for higher education.”
Before Hobbs was elected in 2002, the 21st District was considered reliably Democratic. But Hobbs, a farmer, has successfully pinpointed conservative issues that resonate with Democrats as well as Republicans in the largely rural district. During this campaign season, he focused on preventing a tax increase and on criticizing Gov. Bob Holden’s refusal to sign tort reform into law.
“I have a lot on my plate that I want to get accomplished,” said Hobbs.
Neither the opponent nor the result changed for Democratic incumbent state Rep. Wes Shoemyer, who coasted to victory for a second time in the Ninth District race against Republican Jeff Hedberg. He collected 61 percent with 37 of 43 precincts reporting. “Obviously, I was a little more comfortable,” said Shoemyer. “Redistricting had drawn me a dramatically new district. Two years ago, I had 80 percent of a new district. After I had the ability to serve the folks, to work for people in those areas, they got to know me better.”
He said the only promise that he makes is to do his best.
“I’m going to fight for my district,” said Shoemyer.
Shoemyer, who will begin his second term in the office, gained recognition in the General Assembly during his first term by proposing the SAC Act, which would allow farmers to retain their seeds. He also has advocated imposing new taxes on casinos and closing corporate tax loopholes to generate money for education.
Hedberg, managing editor of the Centralia Fireside Guard, lost his last challenge to Shoemyer by 20 percentage points in 2000. He emphasized the rising cost of doctors’ malpractice insurance during this campaign.
The Ninth District includes all of Howard County and parts of Boone, Audrain, Chariton and Monroe counties.
Missouri reporters Kristin Hayden, Jacob Luecke and Jason Rosenbaum contributed to this report.