Area voters mostly favor Republicans in election

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Southeast Missouri voters spoke loud and clear Tuesday when they gave their vote mostly to Republicans who were seeking to represent them in the state legislature.

Despite wins for Democrats in all statewide offices but one -- the lieutentant governor's race, which went to incumbent Republican and Cape Girardeau native Peter Kinder -- voters in this part of the state favored the GOP heavily from the presidential contest and congressional races down to all but one state representative race.

Only Democrat Steve Hodges, elected to the 149th Missouri district, which covers part of Mississippi County, about half of Sikeston in Scott County, all of New Madrid County and northern Pemiscot County, was left standing to represent Southeast Missouri in Jefferson City. Republicans took all other contested races in the area: Doug Libla won in the 25th Senate district; Holly Rehder will represent the 148th House district; and Dennis Fowler beat his Democratic opponent in the 151st. Farther south in the 150th district, Republican Kent Hampton narrowly bested Democrat Tom Todd. The remainder of districts that make up Southeast Missouri, including the 116th, 145th, 146th, 147th and 152nd, are held by Republicans as a result of August's primaries in which party members won over each other to claim seats. In those races, no Democrats even pursued the seats.

Libla's victory was a major one for the GOP, as they retained control of a Senate seat in the area previously represented by Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer. Libla beat Democratic Rep. Terry Swinger of Caruthersville. Libla polled 56 percent in the district that's made up of Butler, Carter, Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Shannon and Stoddard counties, some of which historically favored Democrats.

The Southeast Missourian was unable to reach Libla for comment Wednesday.

Hodges said he was proud of his win over Neal E. Boyd, especially since he received more votes this time around -- close to 9,000 total -- than when he ran and won his last three terms as representative in the 161st district, part of which was redrawn into the 149th.

Republicans as a result of Tuesday's election increased their control of the state legislature, apparently claiming the two-thirds majority needed to override gubernatorial vetoes. Complete but unofficial returns show the GOP will have 110 seats in the 163-member House. In the state Senate, Republicans maintained their veto-proof majority. State lawmakers were competing for the first time in redrawn districts based upon population changes from the 2010 census.

Those numbers especially worry Hodges in a time he said he feels many Democrats are unorganized and disconnected from constituents, and too few legislators from either party are focused on compromise, instead working on an agenda to get themselves "up a political ladder."

"Nobody wants to make any concessions," he said. "This last session we did almost nothing worthwhile in the state legislature. It's pretty frustrating."

While concerned somewhat about the future of the Democratic Party in the state legislature, Hodges himself doesn't have much trouble getting along with the other side on many issues -- he's known for conservative pro-gun and pro-life stances and Tuesday stopped by an area Republican headquarters office -- just to "say hello."

Hodges' win in a Southeast Missouri growing more red by the election cycle may have been in part helped by the geography of his district when looking at county-by-county tallies. Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama in every county in Southeast Missouri, but the lower percentages of the vote, between 60 and 70 percent, for the Republican were in Mississippi, New Madrid and Scott counties, which are all at least in part included in Hodges' district. Romney took more than 70 percent of the vote in Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Perry and Stoddard counties. In the U.S. Senate race, only Mississippi and New Madrid counties sided with the winner, incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, over Republican Rep. Todd Akin.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

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