Missouri Democrats hope to make gains in state legislative races

Missouri state capitol in Jefferson City
Missouri state capitol in Jefferson City Big Stock Photo

After years of GOP momentum, Missouri Democrats believe they will finally start to chip away at Republican super majorities in the state legislature on Election Day.

Of the 34 seats in the Missouri Senate, Democrats hold only 10. They have only 45 seats in the 163-member Missouri House.

Recapturing the majority after nearly two decades of Republican dominance is a long way off. But with Democratic enthusiasm running high, the party hopes it can claw its way out of the electoral cellar in the upcoming election.

Meanwhile, Republicans once again have a massive fundraising advantage over the Democrats, as well as a proven track record of winning state legislative races regardless of the national political mood.

Here are a handful of competitive local races to watch:

Senate District 34

Incumbent state Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, is leaving office because of term limits, and the race to replace him in a seat representing Buchanan and Platte counties is the most closely watched state legislative contest this year.

Republican Tony Luetkemeyer of Parkville is taking on Democrat Martin Rucker of Kansas City.

Luetkemeyer is an attorney who previously served on the University of Missouri Board of Curators and clerked for a Missouri Supreme Court judge. He’s never sought public office before.

Rucker is a former All-American tight end for the University of Missouri who went on to an NFL career that included a stint with the Kansas City Chiefs. He currently is a project engineer for Kissick Construction.

Luetkemeyer has benefited from around $500,000 in spending by political action committees supporting him and attacking Rucker. That’s on top of the $430,000 he has reported raising this election cycle, although he spent heavily to win a contested GOP primary in August.

PACs supporting Rucker have spent $200,000 on the race, while he’s reported raising around $150,000.

Senate District 8

This race is a rematch from a special election last year, pitting incumbent state Sen. Mike Cierpiot, R-Lee’s Summit, against Democrat Hillary Shields.

Last year, Cierpiot cruised to an 8-point victory over Shields and an independent candidate, vastly outraising Shields while benefiting from hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending from GOP-backed political action committees.

This time around it’s Shields who is raising the most money. Shields has raised more than $315,000, and reported having $80,000 cash on hand last week. Cierpiot raised $225,000, with around $14,000 cash on hand.

GOP-backed outside spending groups have chipped in another $100,000 opposing Shields.

House District 14

Incumbent Republican Rep. Kevin Corlew is taking on Democrat Matt Sain.

Corlew, an attorney from Kansas City, has served two terms in the House. Sain, a recent graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, has never sought elected office.

In a sign of just how competitive this seat has become, the House Republican Campaign Committee recently dropped $150,000 into the race opposing Sain. The group already spent $75,000 against him.

House District 35

Incumbent Republican Rep. Gary Cross, R-Lee’s Summit is leaving because of term limits.

Running to replace him are Republican Tom Lovell and Democrat Keri Ingle, both from Lee’s Summit.

Lovell is a former longtime Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation administrator.

Ingle is a social worker at KU Medical Center and a former children’s advocate with the Jackson County Children’s Division.

House District 13

Republican Vic Allred is facing off against Democrat Mitch Weber for an open legislative seat.

Republican Rep. Nick Marshall is unable to run again because of term limits.

Allred is owner or co-owner of five restaurants called Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen.

Weber is a former broadcast journalist with stints at Fox 4, 41 Action News and “Kansas City Live.”

Both men live in Parkville.

House District 15

Incumbent Democratic state Rep. Jon Carpenter of Kansas City is taking on Republican Steve West.

Since emerging from the GOP primary West has drawn intense criticism over a radio show he hosts and website through which he regularly espoused homophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and racism. Recently, two of West’s three children publicly pleaded with voters not to elect him. West has denied the accusations against him.

Carpenter is the owner of his own marketing and advertising firm. He was first elected in 2012.

House District 32

Republican Jeff Coleman is facing off against Democrat Janice Brill, both of Grain Valley.

Incumbent Rep. Jeanie Lauer, R-Blue Springs, is leaving office because of term limits.

Coleman is a city alderman and school board member in Grain Valley who works as a retirement and wealth preservation specialist. Brill is a retired English and social studies teacher who served two terms as alderman in Norwood, Mo.

House District 31

Incumbent Republican Rep. Dan Stacy is facing Democrat Travis Hagewood, both of Blue Springs.

Stacy, who was first elected in 2016, is an associate with Legalshield.

Hagewood worked as a Realtor for nearly six years, and currently works for Ford Motor Co.

House District 34

Incumbent Republican Rep. Rebecca Roeber is facing Democrat James Ripley, both of Lee’s Summit.

Roeber was first elected in 2014. She taught in the Raytown school district for 17 years before retiring.

Ripley retired from the Missouri Highway Patrol in 2013, then taught law enforcement and police science at the Herndon Career Center in Raytown.