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Haefner bows out of race for south St. Louis County-based Senate seat

State Rep. Marsha Haefner
File photo I Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
State Rep. Marsha Haefner is forgoing her bid for the state Senate and instead running for re-election in the Missouri House.

State Rep. Marsha Haefner pulled the plug on her state Senate bid in the 1st Senatorial District, creating yet another twist to a state legislative contest that could prove to be one of the most competitive in the state.

Haefner announced her candidacy for the south St. Louis County-based seat earlier this year. When the Oakville Republican jumped into the contest, the incumbent – Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton – was running for attorney general and was leaving the seat wide open.

But Sifton abandoned his attorney general bid and decided instead to run for re-election. That prompted the announced 1st District Senate candidate, former state Rep. Vicki Englund, D-Green Park, to run for her old state House seat. And on Monday, Haefner released a statement indicating she too will run for re-election to the House instead of taking on Sifton. 

Scott Sifton
Credit Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
State Sen. Scott Sifton has amassed nearly $500,000 in campaign funds -- which is a large amount of money more than a year before an election.

“After prayerful consideration and discussions with family, friends and supporters, I have decided that I can most effectively advocate for our community by continuing to serve in the Missouri House of Representatives,” Haefner said in her statement. “I appreciate the overwhelming support and encouragement of so many and I look forward to continuing to serve the community I care so much about.”

A call to Haefner was not immediately returned.

While Haefner won a House seat that was previously held by a Democrat, she’s easily won re-election in a district that includes most of Oakville. She’s also a key member of the House Budget Committee, so it’s possible that she could move up within that powerful committee through running for re-election.

But Haefner’s exit leaves Republicans without a candidate to take on Sifton – who narrowly won the 1st District seat in 2012 over incumbent Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay. The 1st District is highly competitive: Nobody who’s captured the seat since 2004 has prevailed by more than 2 percentage points.

Still, the GOP bench is somewhat thin. While Lembke is widely considered to be an excellent campaigner, he recently signed onto be Sen. Rob Schaaf’s chief of staff. State Rep. Cloria Brown, R-St. Louis County, has also sworn off a state Senate run – at least before Haefner bowed out of the contest.

The other issue for Republicans could be Sifton’s campaign bank account. He’s already amassed nearly $500,000 in cash, which is a stout amount for any state Senate candidate at this point of an election cycle.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.