Republican incumbent Ed Robb narrowly defeated Democrat Jim Ritter to retain his 24th District seat in the Missouri House of Representatives.
The race went down to the wire and, in the end, was settled by only 208 of the nearly 18,000 votes cast.
Robb said during the campaign that his re-election would mean Columbia and southern Boone County would have an experienced representative in Jefferson City who is a respected member of the majority party.
“I feel pretty good. I was nervously confident, but now I feel good,” Robb said after watching election returns at the Holiday Inn Executive Center on Tuesday night.
Robb, a former MU economics professor and consultant, said the respect he’s already gained in the legislature will make him an effective second-term representative. His experience with government finance makes him one of few experts in Missouri on taxation, and in his last term he became only the second freshman legislator in Missouri history to be named vice chairman of the House Budget Committee.
Increasing funding for higher education, simplifying taxes and creating a better Medicaid program are Robb’s top priorities for the next two years.
Ritter, who retired as superintendent of Columbia Public Schools after more than 35 years in education, was unable to fully capitalize on his reputation as a top-notch and trustworthy school administrator. He was trying to reclaim a seat that was traditionally held by Democrats until Robb’s election in 2004.
Ritter watched election returns with supporters and fellow Democrats at D. Rowe’s Restaurant & Bar on Tuesday night.
“It was a heck of a run on my part,” Ritter said. “I learned a lot, and it was about as close as it could get, but 200 votes is 200 votes. I wish Ed Robb well in his next two-year term.”
Both candidates said throughout the campaign that the 24th District contest might have been the most expensive in Missouri history. Combined, Robb and Ritter raised $300,000.
Other House races in the area weren’t quite as close. Here’s a look at those results.
Democrat Paul Quinn won the 9th District state representative seat, holding onto a spot in the General Assembly that has long been reserved for his party.
Quinn was celebrating his victory last night at Lake Village, a hotel and restaurant in Paris, Mo.
“I am pleased with the way things turned out,” Quinn said. “I just want people to realize how thankful I am and how blessed I feel.”
His opponent, Republican Kathyrne Harper of Fayette, conceded around 10:30 p.m.
Quinn said he hopes people can see from the race that candidates can have a positive campaign and respect each other while still competing for the same job. He said during his campaign that he’ll focus on issues important to the people of his district. And he said he has reason to believe he knows what those issues are.
Quinn, 62, lives on his family farm in Monroe City and has held public office in the community for the past 22 years. He is currently the Monroe County assessor.
Harper, 35, has been the Howard County treasurer for the past four years.
Throughout his campaign, Quinn emphasized his ability to listen and to be a voice for the rural 9th District, especially when it comes to gaining funding for schools in the area. He said the fact that he has nine children attending those schools is evidence that he recognizes the importance of securing quality education.
Quinn opposes the sale of assets from the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority, which he said should continue to subsidize student loans. He said his children used loans to help pay for the state schools they attended and that future students should have the same resource.
Quinn’s large family has been a major asset to him over the past few months, with many members getting involved in the campaign. His children went door-to-door to tell prospective voters about their father.
Harper spent Tuesday night at Cafe Mosaic, a business she owns with her husband in downtown Fayette. Harper, 35, said she has no regrets about the campaign, and “that’s just the way it goes when you decide to run for public office.”
“I really enjoyed campaigning and meeting people, but now it’s time to get life back to normal,” Harper said.
She said at this point, she doesn’t see herself running again in two years.
Steve Hobbs won his third two-year term as Missouri’s 21st District state representative on Tuesday, defeating a tough challenge from Skip Elkin, Boone County’s Northern District Commissioner.
Hobbs, a Mexico, Mo., Republican, edged out his Democratic challenger from Hallsville. Elkin had a narrow lead in Boone County at press time, but lost districtwide, and will remain in his commissioner’s seat.
“I’m very happy with the trust the 21st District has given me,” Hobbs said while watching election returns at the Mexico Elks Lodge. “I’m looking forward to getting back to work.”
Hobbs, during the campaign, repeatedly called himself a farmer first. He still lives and farms within a mile of his childhood home. His campaign emphasized his rural values and work ethic. Hobbs said his rural upbringing has shaped his leadership style. He’s a straight-talker who enjoys working in coalitions more than debating bills on the House floor.
Hobbs has said that his No. 1 goal for the next two years is to pass his Rural Missouri Health Care Initiative. The bill aims to increase funding to struggling health clinics in mid-Missouri. Hobbs is also working to find alternative fuel sources and is a strong proponent of ethanol fuel production.
Hobbs plans on running for a fourth term in 2008.
Elkin, who spent much of the night watching returns at the Seigfried Law Firm in Mexico, Mo., said he was disappointed with the outcome.
“We did our best,” Elkin said. “We hit all of our goals, but it just didn’t work out for us.”
Patricia Stemme, a 21st District voter who has known Hobbs for years through agricultural ties, said she voted for him on Tuesday.
“Steve is very involved in the key issues that help the rural community,” she said. “I felt I owed him my support.”
Democratic incumbent Jeff Harris, who has had a secure grip on the 23rd District state representative seat since he first won it in 2002, continued his streak of landslide election victories Tuesday when he defeated Republican Patrick Crabtree.
Harris, who over the course of the campaign has chosen his words carefully when talking about his potential re-election, said before the final results were in late Tuesday night that he was “feeling pretty confident” about a victory.
Harris, the House minority leader, will return to Jefferson City for his third two-year term in January. During the campaign, he vowed to seek tax relief to help middle-class families afford the high price of tuition at public colleges and universities, to build a more robust and attractive economy in Missouri and to put an “increasing emphasis” on math and science education in public schools, among a medley of other issues.
Harris said he was excited about working with newly elected Democrats who won House seats formerly held by Republicans.
“It should be a wake-up call to the governor and the speaker that we need to bring things back to the center,” said Harris, as he left his final election night party at The Blue Note with his wife, Katie.
Harris has soared through the state’s Democratic ranks in the House, from minority whip in 2003 to his current position. State Sen. Chuck Graham, who first met Harris when he was considering running for office back in 2002, said Harris is a “bright, young star in the Democratic Party.”
Crabtree, Harris’ opponent, faced a tough battle as he had to fight Harris’ popularity and his formidable campaign treasury.
“I knew the opposition had a lot of money, and I knew I couldn’t compete on that level,” said Crabtree, who had gathered with other Republicans at the Holiday Inn Executive Center in Columbia to watch election results come in.
Crabtree said that if he could get “decent numbers” against an opponent as popular as Harris, especially with the discrepancy in the amount of money that was raised and spent, then he would view his election run as a “good accomplishment.”
Lisa Higgins, who was sitting in a booth with friends at Harpo’s for a Democratic Election Night party, said she has been impressed by Harris’ accessibility.
“He listens to his constituents,” she said. “I have talked to him in person. I have written him several times, and he always writes back promptly.”
Missourian reporters Elizabeth Kusta, Charles Berman, Matthew Haag and Kate Cerve contributed to this report.