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Senate control leans toward GOP in state elections
By Paul Sloca ~ The Associated Press
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Republican Rep. Charlie Shields won a state Senate seat previously held by Democrats as Republicans hoped to keep their majority in the chamber in Tuesday's elections.
With all precincts reporting, Shields had 52 percent of the vote compared to Democratic Rep. Glenda Kelly's 43 percent. Independent candidate Eric Pendell received 5 percent of the vote.
Shield's won the seat previously held by Democratic Sen. Sidney Johnson of Agency.
Republicans, who held an 18-16 majority during the last legislative session, had leads in three of five remaining Senate seats considered pivotal to Senate control.
Dan Clemens of Springfield was off to an early lead in his Senate race against outgoing Democratic House Speaker Jim Kreider of Nixa. Clemens had 63 percent of the vote with 30 percent of precincts reporting in a district currently held by Democrats.
With about half of precincts reporting, Republican Rep. Carl Vogel led Democratic Rep. Bill Gratz with 59 percent of the vote. Republican incumbent Sen. John Cauthorn had 55 percent of the vote against Democrat 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 55 percent of the vote against Republican Rep. Norma Champion with only 1 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.
A net gain of one seat in the Senate by Democrats would tie the chamber at 17-17, a split that would raise questions about the voting power Democratic Lieutenant Gov. Joe Maxwell has as President of the Senate.
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 House returns Tuesday showed both parties holding onto a few seats they already controlled.
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.
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.