State representative drops out of state Senate race

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Rep. Billy Pat Wright of Dexter is shown voting on the House floor in Jefferson City. Wright announced Monday he will retire from his political career in December, canceling plans to vie for the Senate seat that will be vacated by Rob Mayer of Dexter. (Photo courtesy of Capitol Hill photographer Tim Brommel)

DEXTER, Mo. -- Rep. Billy Pat Wright announced Monday that he has withdrawn from the race for the state 25th Senate District seat. His withdrawal from the race leaves Poplar Bluff, Mo., businessman Doug Libla, a Republican, and Rep. Terry Swinger of Caruthersville, Mo., a Democrat, to meet in the November general election. Wright has represented the 1959th House District for 12 years and could not seek re-election due to term limits.

Wright, R-Dexter, announced his retirement and exit in a news release.

"I will continue to serve with pride as your state representative until the end of December 2012," Wright said.

Wright announced his intention to run for the District 25 seat in February 2011. About the same time, Swinger, who represents District 162 in the state House, announced for the seat, followed by Libla in Poplar Bluff. Two others announced but withdrew before the filing period officially opened on Feb. 27, 2012. The seat is being vacated by Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, who was Senate President Pro Tem this past session. Mayer was also term limited.

Wright trailed both Libla and Swinger in campaign contributions. According to quarterly campaign finance reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission at the end of April, Libla had a total of $331,733.72 in his campaign finance fund, Swinger had $235,142 and Wright had $55,603.53 in his campaign fund.

A Dexter native, Wright has served on a number of House committees, including the Committee for Agriculture Policy, upon which he served as vice chair, and he currently serves as chair of Emerging Issues and Animal Agriculture, the Appropriations Committee, the Joint Committee on Wetlands, the Special Committee on Veterans, the Special Committee on Utilities and Homeland Security.

Wright gave no other reason for his decision, other than to say he is retiring. Wright is 73 years old and is a U.S. Army veteran and a local rancher. His career was spent with Southwestern Bell Telephone Company after earning his bachelor of arts from National University and attending Three Rivers College.

The Senate race was unsettled for a time after the first redistricting plan was unveiled. The redistricting was based on the 2010 census. The first plan removed Butler and Ripley Counties from the district and substituted Scott County, including Sikeston, Bollinger County and Mississippi County. At that time, Rep. Ellen Brandom, R-Sikeston, announced for the District 25 seat. The first redistricting plan was drawn up by a panel of judges and did not include public input. It was overturned by the Missouri Supreme Court. A committee was formed to study the issue and came up with another plan that gained approval. The new map left District 25 as it was, with the addition of Carter and Shannon counties to the west and Mississippi County to the east.

Libla entered the race in August. At that time he was co-owner of Poplar Bluff-based Mid Continent Nail Corporation. The company has since been sold. He is running as a strong conservative. Wright's withdrawal from the race means that Libla will have no opponent in the August primary election. He can now focus squarely on opposing Swinger in the November election.

Swinger represents District 162, which includes the counties of Dunklin, Pemiscot and New Madrid. Swinger said he wants to continue helping his constituents, especially in the areas of agriculture and veterans affairs. He also faced term limits in the House and chose to run for the Senate.

Pertinent address:

Dexter, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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