You’ve got to hand it to candidates for the State Senate District 8 vacancy. They made what could have been a boring, odd-year, special election quite exhilarating.
Each day, I would come home to my mailbox to see what flyer the state GOP or some conservative political action action might have dropped to this likely voter. The sheer volume of these paid advertisements showed that, to their credit, the party was taking this election seriously.
While anyone with a “D” next to their name has been marginalized in the past when running for local senate and house seats, Cierpiot and his team certainly weren’t conceding anything this time around.
A few times, I would open the box to a mailer from the Democratic candidate, Hillary Shields, the most unlikely of options to unseat a Republican — any Republican — in the seemingly largely conservative District 8 area.
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Of course, unlikely candidates can put together massive ground games and scurry up droves of grassroots support. When that perfect storm of candidate and message melds, we have seen incumbents fall and newcomers take office more than once in Lee’s Summit.
The biggest question on the minds of those running the campaigns for Cierpiot and Shields were this — how is voter turnout going to look in a single-ballot election and what, if any, fallout would they see from the addition of Jacob Turk, running as an independent, to the ballot?
When the votes were counted Tuesday night — 25,554 — Turk had tallied a little more than 1,800. He certainly didn’t sheer enough votes from his former Republican ally to move the needle much for Shields, but it remains noteworthy that Shields garnered nearly 11,000 votes and 42.5 percent of the total vote in this election.
You can bet that Shields and her volunteers scratched and fought for every one of those votes in trying to flip the Eighth District to Democratic control.
Similarly, Cierpiot had to do the same. His 12,851 votes Tuesday night were far shy of the 50,056 Will Kraus received in 2010 when he defeated Libertarian Kevin Parr (12,996 votes). Kraus even tallied 34,000 votes running unopposed in 2014.
But those are even-year elections with multiple ballot measures, so this year’s special election — prompted when Kraus resigned in July to accept an appointment to the Missouri State Tax Commission — was a tricky one, for all parties involved.
Some of Cierpiot’s claims on his flyers were fact-checked and called out by local television journalists.
Shields took to social media to spread her message.
And, in the middle, was Turk, who muddied up the GOP plans by squeezing onto the ballot as a third-party candidate.
Every single vote was precious in this unconventional election. Hanging on to “the Eighth” was so important to Republicans, they reportedly poured more than $1 million to keep this seat until 2018, when the next general election takes place.
Will Shields run again? A possible primary in 2018 followed by another November run may prove daunting and certainly will be expensive.
Most assuredly, Cierpiot will be a part of the candidate list on the Republican side — and with the state party behind him, a primary challenge seems unlikely.
Regardless of your political leanings, this race in District 8 opened up many partisan discussions.
A high school or collegiate poli-sci class would be well advised to dig into this race. It had about every political twist, turn, and storyline you can imagine.
Lee’s Summit resident John Beaudoin writes about city and civic issues, people and personalities around town. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.