COLUMBIA — The race for the 19th District state Senate seat is going to be expensive.

Campaign finance reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission on Thursday showed Democrat Stephen Webber had raised more than $1.1 million for the campaign while his Republican opponent, Caleb Rowden, had raised about $550,000.

Webber reported having $890,429 left in his campaign account. Rowden had $360,371 left, according to his report.

And the money keeps flowing in. On the same day Rowden filed his report, he collected another $250,000 from the Missouri Senate Campaign Committee. Webber, meanwhile, also reported an Aug. 30 contribution of $75,000 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees on Thursday.

Stephen Webber, the Democratic candidate for the 19th District state Senate seat, has raised more than $1.1 million for his campaign. You can see his latest campaign finance report here.

Webber and Rowden are state representatives in the 44th and 46th districts, respectively. Webber is in his fourth House term and Rowden his second. Both are competing to replace Kurt Schaefer, who was term-limited out of the Senate and made an unsuccessful bid for attorney general.

Webber's finance report shows he had received money from about 2,000 different contributors, the majority of whom were individual donors. The rest came from labor unions, political action committees and fellow legislators.

The St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council has donated a total of $110,000 to Webber's campaign. They are listed as the CHIPP Political Account on Webber's finance report.

Mark Dalton, assistant political director for the council, said his group likes Webber because "he's a longtime supporter of working men and women in the state, and we know he will continue to be. If (legislators) stand up for working families, we'll stand up for them."

Efforts in the legislature to change the laws governing labor unions* have become an important factor in campaign contributions for the Columbia representatives. The Missouri General Assembly in both 2015 and 2016 failed to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of union bills*. One bill would have made it illegal for employers to require employees to join a union as a condition of employment. The other would've required public employees to annually opt-in to paying union dues through paycheck withholdings, rather than allowing those payments to continue automatically.*

The legislation would have required public employees to annually reauthorize paying their dues through paycheck withholdings. It would have also required those unions to make financial records available to workers.

Rowden supports the legislation; Webber opposes the changes.

Dalton said his council aims to fight Missouri Republicans' financial powerhouse. He said members contribute 10 cents to the council's political committee for every hour they work.

"So if you look at that contribution we give and divide it by 10 cents an hour, $50,000 checks take a lot of hours for our members to work," Dalton said, referring its latest donation to Webber. "So really, that check is like each person giving $2 — all 22,000 — versus one individual giving a quarter of a million dollars. So that's what we fight against."

The Missouri Senate Campaign Committee has contributed a total of $470,200, including the $250,000 it gave on Thursday, making up almost 60 percent of his overall contributions. The rest of Rowden's donations were split between individuals and committees, with the largest sums coming from fellow legislators. 

Caleb Rowden, the Republican candidate for the 19th District state Senate seat, has raised about $550,000 for his campaign. You can see his latest finance report here.

The Senate campaign committee's goal is to elect Republicans to the Senate, Rowden said. The majority of its contributions come from Missouri Republicans. 

Rowden said it's important that a Republican keep the 19th District Senate seat. He noted that Schaefer was chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee for the past six years. Webber, he said, wouldn't have that kind of clout.

"The reality of mid-Missouri from going to a six-year Senate Appropriations chair to a guy who’s probably going to be an eight-person minority if he gets elected is catastrophic," Rowden said. "That’s not a political statement; it’s just a statement of fact.”

Rowden said he suspects the committee will collect more money as Election Day approaches. In fact, the committee added another $250,000 to Rowden's campaign the day after contribution reports were due to the Ethics Commission.

Meanwhile, the Central Missouri Senate Republican PAC is also collecting money. As of Friday, the committee had collected $335,000, including a $250,000 contribution from David Humphreys, the CEO of TAMKO Building Products in Joplin.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill attended a fundraiser for Webber at Orr Street Studios on Thursday night. She urged the crowd to keep the money flowing.

“(Webber) needs more resources, because if you think they’re not going to come in here to try to save this seat, you’re crazy," she told the crowd of about 100.

Webber said he didn't fear Republican money.

“When you see a $250,000 check drop into the Ethics Commission, it’s not fun," Webber said. "When you see a crowd like this, it gives you the absolute confidence that you’re doing the right thing for the right people for the right reasons.”

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

  • Copy Editor Undergraduate | Investigative, Print and Digital Reporting Reach me at eao7c9@mail.missouri.edu or in the newsroom at 882-5720 Twitter: @emily_a_oconnor

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