Brandom opts to run for 25th Senate District

Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Ellen Brandom

When Rep. Ellen Brandom launched her candidacy for the Missouri Senate six months ago, she did so in Cape Girardeau.

Now, if the Sikeston, Mo., Republican wins next November, she won't even represent that city.

On Monday, Brandom said she has decided to stay close to home in light of the redistricting shake-up and run in the new state 25th Senate District -- not the new 3rd District.

Billy Pat Wright

"I am flattered by the amount of encouragement from both Cape Girardeau and Sikeston," she said. "But Sikeston is my home and I have had so much encouragement from ag producers, small businesses -- everyone, really -- that my decision is to stay here."

Brandom could have run in the 3rd District -- it was part of her existing 160th House District boundaries, which includes a portion of Cape Girardeau County. But she would have had to move if she decided to seek re-election to the 3rd District one year before the 2016 election.

Now, she faces challenges for the seat from fellow House members looking to migrate to the Senate. Brandom will square off in the Aug. 7 primary with Rep. Billy Pat Wright, R-Dexter, and in the Nov. 6 general election with Rep. Terry Swinger, D-Caruthersville.

Terry Swinger

Brandom also brings her substantial campaign dollars to the 25th race, with more money than either of her two opponents. As of October campaign filing reports filed with the state, Brandom had $185,117 -- compared to Swinger's $109,136 and Wright's $26,366.

Swinger said Brandom's entry into the race no doubt changes the parameters of the campaign. But he noted that he has been running for this seat for basically five years, considering that he ran unopposed in his last three House elections.

"I haven't heard of anybody doing anywhere near the work I've done in this district," Swinger said. "I'm just going to stick with my plan and work as hard as I can."

Swinger, an optometrist with three Bootheel offices, doesn't see the differences in campaign money as a huge detriment with almost a year to go until the election. Swinger has a goal of getting to $150,000 by the end of the current quarter and up to $225,000 by the next one.

"I'm not going to be distracted by what anybody else does or has," Swinger said.

Had Brandom opted to run in 3rd District, she would have faced two Republicans -- Farmington businessman Gary Romine and former representative Pat Naeger of Perryville, Mo. One Democrat, Rep. Joe Fallert of Ste. Genevieve, Mo., said last week he is at least considering a run for the 3rd District.

"Isn't this crazy?" Brandom said. "This redistricting threw everybody for a loop. ... I think these maps were a total surprise."

Both the Missouri House and Senate had maps redrawn this year, a requirement of a state constitutional requirement following each census to reflect changes in population. After two commissions failed to agree on maps, a panel of appellate judges redrew the boundaries.

The panel actually released two Senate maps in recent weeks. The second was drawn up after the first one came under criticism for being unconstitutional.

On Monday, Naeger said it seemed natural for Brandom to stay in the area she lives.

"This map has changed a lot of people's plans including mine," Naeger said. "But I think Ellen will be a formidable candidate in that district. No doubt about that."

Romine agreed, saying it is a better fit for Brandom to run in the community where she lives. But he said it doesn't change his approach to winning.

"My position has always been I've got to focus on my skills and what I'm doing," Romine said. "I can't let what other people are doing or not doing affect how I run my race."

The 3rd District includes the counties of Cape Girardeau, Perry, Ste. Genevieve and St. Francois. The 25th District includes the counties of Bollinger, Wayne, Stoddard, Scott, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot and Dunklin.

The new maps take effect with next November's general election.

Calls to Wright's office on Monday weren't returned.

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

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