COLUMBIA — Missouri's 50th District stuck with its Republican roots Tuesday, electing Sara Walsh to the seat previously held by former Rep. Caleb Jones.
Walsh was overcome with emotion at her watch party at Pizza Haus restaurant in Ashland. She thanked Jesus, her husband, Steven, her family, her supporters and even her dog, Wish Walsh.
"I wish I could stay here all night so I could individually thank every one of you in this room," she said. "Having a room this big, with these wonderful friends and these wonderful relationships, it truly feels like a Hallmark movie."
Of Wish Walsh, she said, "he’ll probably be glad I won’t be smelling like the other dogs in the district anymore."
Walsh’s No. 1 priority for her first legislative session will be job and economic growth, said campaign volunteer Hunter Thomas. Now that she has been elected to the state legislature, she can make a much bigger impact fighting for the legislation she believes in, he said.
Speaking about making a difference right away, Thomas said, "We’re not afraid to get our hands dirty."
She plans to advocate for small businesses by removing regulations and defending the "right-to-work" law, and she supports tax cuts to stimulate the economy, Thomas said. She is also pro-Second Amendment and anti-Medicaid expansion — however, she said she wanted to "ensure that we’re caring for those most vulnerable among us."
She is a graduate of Columbia College and MU and emphasized the importance education for Missouri’s economy. "The University of Missouri is the economic engine of mid-Missouri," she said. "A strong university is a strong Missouri."
MU administrators should work with legislators to find ways to accomplish their goals without needless additional spending, she said. One of her goals, for both higher education and K-12, is to "work to ensure schools achieve local control," according to her website.
Skelton was the first Democrat challenger to run since the district was restructured after the 2010 census — previously Jones ran unopposed in elections after the restructure — and was unable to flip the traditionally red district despite an extensive grassroots campaign. She took Boone County with a little over 53 percent of the vote, or 2,875 ballots, but captured only 47.9 percent of the total votes in the district. Throughout the campaign, Skelton raised around $38,000 more than Walsh for a total of $98,000.
Skelton said she was energized by the showing at the polls. Multiple polling places ran out of ballots due to the high turnout and had to be restocked. One site in Jamestown and another in California, Missouri, ran dry.
"We hit almost midterm-level turnout," Skelton said. "And that is with the Republican Party spending tens of thousands of dollars in the last couple weeks of the election scaring their constituents with all kinds of ridiculous mailers."
Skelton said she will run again in 2018, mirroring comments from Republican officials about Walsh's campaign prospects and setting up a political rematch.
"We are going to keep fighting for 2018," Skelton said. "I am going to show the people that when they want someone to show up and hear them, it’s going to be me."
Originally, Walsh had planned to run for the 50th District in 2018 when Jones would have been unable to run again because of term limits, so she said she knew it was her time when he stepped down. She said her journey from humble beginnings to running for office is representative of what she loves so much about the U.S.
There are no kings, queens, princes or princesses in the United States, she said. Instead, "The beauty of our country is that you can be a poor girl from rural Missouri and still run for office."
Supervising editor is John Sadler.