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Republicans poised to take state House, keep Senate
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Republicans appeared likely to keep their majority in the state Senate in Tuesday's elections and were claiming victory in the House of Representatives.
Republicans had won five of 12 races and were leading in several others in the Senate while Democrats had only one victory in late election returns. Republicans held an 18-16 majority in the Senate during the last legislative session and were poised to maintain and possibly extend that majority as late returns were still being counted.
"They were well-run campaigns, which built upon the good record we developed in the past two years as the majority," said Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, a Cape Girardeau Republican.
Republican winners included Rep. Carl Vogel of Jefferson City, Rep. Matt Bartle of Lee's Summit, incumbent Sen. Sarah Steelman of Rolla, Rep. John Griesheimer of Washington and Rep. Charlie Shields of St. Joseph. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Steve Stoll of Festus notched the Democratic victory.
Dan Clemens of Springfield was leading his Senate race against outgoing Democratic House Speaker Jim Kreider of Nixa. Clemens had 61 percent of the vote with 33 percent of precincts reporting in a district currently held by Democrats.
Sen. John Cauthorn had 55 percent of the vote in his re-election bid against Democratic Rep. Sam Berkowitz, with 72 percent of precincts reporting.
Democratic Rep. Joan Bray of St. Louis had a narrow lead -- 50 percent to 49 percent with just under half of the precincts reporting -- over Republican John Lewis in a seat currently held by the GOP.
Democratic Rep. Craig Hosmer of Springfield had 52 percent of the vote against Republican Rep. Norma Champion with just 5 percent of precincts reporting in the previously GOP-controlled district.
Democrats were seeking a net gain of two Senate seats to get the 18 needed to control the chamber. A total of 17 seats were being contested in the 34-member body.
Meanwhile, all 163 state House seats were being contested on Election Day with 87 seats left vacant, most because of the onset of term limits, which voters approved in 1992. Early returns showed that several Republicans had captured seats previously held by Democrats.
Democrats previously held an 87-76 majority over Republicans in the House. The GOP, which has not controlled the House since 1954, needed a net gain of six seats to get the 82 needed for a majority. Republican Party officials were claiming takeover of the House as this newspaper went to press.
"This is a sea change in the Missouri political landscape," Kinder said.
The majority party in both chambers picks leadership, controls committee assignments and determines legislative priorities for the next two years.
House Republicans had scheduled a leadership meeting Wednesday at the Capitol while House Democrats, Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans were all scheduled to meet Thursday in Jefferson City.