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LIVE BLOG - Primary Election 2018

Here's how tonight's live blog is going to work. We'll update this post with the latest numbers, insight from our reporters in the field, and other interesting tidbits we see along the way. The feed is in reverse chronological order, which means the newest information will be at the top of the post. Scroll down to see all our earlier coverage.

12:20 a.m. — Stenger wins another term - barely

Steve Stenger beat challenger Mark Mantovani by a little more than 1,000 votes to retain his position as St. Louis County Executive. With all precincts reporting, Stenger won 50.32 percent of the vote compared to Mantovani’s 49.68 percent. Mantovani says he is not conceding the close race.


And that is it for tonight’s live coverage. Thank you to everyone who checked in to see how the major races in Missouri and St. Louis turned out. Scroll down for previous updates, or start reading our comprehensive election coverage — starting with Missouri’s historic vote on labor: Missouri voters deliver big win for unions with repeal of right to work

12 a.m. — Waiting on St. Louis County results

Officials are still counting ballots in St. Louis County — by hand — after problems with voting machines. That means we’re not yet sure of the final tally in the county executive race between incumbent Steve Stenger and challenger Mark Mantovani.


With 90 percent of precincts reporting, Stenger was up by almost 3,000 votes. But Montovani says he’s not ready to give up yet. “This doesn’t feel like the type of thing we should concede,” he told supporters at his election night watch party.

11 p.m. — Bell declares victory

In the biggest upset of the night, Ferguson City Councilman Wesley Bell has declared victory over Bob McCulloch, the seven-term incumbent St. Louis County prosecutor.

“Close friends said, ‘there’s no way you can win that race,’” Bell said in a rambling speech at his campaign headquarters. “I can understand that. He’s a 27-year incumbent. But people here showed up and showed out. A lot of people contributed to this victory, and I thank you so much.”

Wesley Bell addresses a crowd of supporters in St. Ann on Tuesday. He defeated incumbent Bob McCulloch in the contest for St. Louis County prosecutor. Aug 7, 2018.
Credit David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio
Wesley Bell addresses a crowd of supporters in St. Ann on Tuesday. He defeated incumbent Bob McCulloch in the contest for St. Louis County prosecutor.

With no Republican running, Bell’s primary win essentially clinches the office, which will make him the first African-American to hold the St. Louis County prosecutor’s post. Bell, who is required by the county charter to give up his private law practice, is also a municipal court prosecutor and Ferguson city councilman. He will have to resign those positions as well.

The race was shaped in large part by the protests that followed the shooting death of Michael Brown by a white Ferguson police officer in 2014. McCulloch, who won the 2014 Democratic primary just days before Brown was killed, came under fierce criticism for how his office handled the case of Darren Wilson, the former Ferguson officer who shot Brown.

The race attracted a lot of attention from national groups who view prosecutor and sheriff races as a new front in a battle for criminal justice reform.

Bell ran for office in the aftermath of Brown’s death, pointing to the inequalities it exposed as a main driver behind his decision to take on McCulloch.

“Tonight’s victory is a powerful rejection of Bob McCulloch and his decision not to pursue justice in the communities he was elected to serve,” Color of Change PAC said in a statement. The group put more than $100,000 in organizing and advertising support toward Bell. “With this victory, voters took a stand toward a St. Louis County that respects and honors the lives of all residents. Voters made a decision that they needed a fresh new start. This was a major win for grassroots organizing, and proof that issues that affect the Black community are winning issues at the ballot box.”

McCulloch said at his election watch party in Des Peres that he’ll likely retire when his term ends in January.

10:30 p.m. — Some finals

As we reported earlier, the AP has called the race for the “no” side on Proposition A. The political website FiveThirtyEight called it the “potentially biggest victory for organized labor” since 2011.

“Voters rightfully rejected a shameful attempt by Republicans and powerful corporate interests to hurt working families and weaken unions,” the Democratic National Committee said in a statement. “The fact that this anti-worker initiative was passed in the first place is yet another example of how Republican interests don’t align with those of the middle class.”

The AP has also called the 1st Congressional District race for U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-University City. Cori Bush, a pastor and a registered nurse, had attempted to replicate the success of New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s defeat of longtime incumbent Congressman Joseph Crawley. But Clay’s political organization is widely revered throughout the St. Louis region — and it had more money to spend in the run up to Tuesday’s primary.

Clay and Bush agreed on most key issues, including expanding Medicare to the general public and opposing Trump’s immigration policies. Some of Bush’s allies pointed to Clay’s decision to accept money from political action committees as a reason to oppose his re-election. Clay contended that amounted to a “litmus test” from left-of-center activists, adding that individual workers or union members contribute to PACs.

Since the 1st District is heavily Democratic, Clay is favored to win in November. By the time he finishes his next term, he will have served 20 years in the U.S. House.

In the St. Louis County prosecutor race, with about 90 percent of the precincts reporting, Wesley Bell holds a nearly 10-point lead over Bob McCulloch, in what could prove to be the night’s biggest upset. Steve Stenger held a slim lead over Mark Mantovani in the county executive race, but as Jason Rosenbaum pointed out, we are still waiting on about 30 precincts in the 5th District, where Lisa Clancy has a large lead on Stenger ally Pat Dolan.

10 p.m. — The latest numbers

The Associated Press has called the Proposition A race, and it has the so-called right-to-work measure failing. Jason Rosenbaum captured the celebration at Sheet Metal Workers Local 36.

“This is not a concession,” the Missouri Chamber of Commerce said in a statement. "With the future of our state’s economy on the line, we cannot concede hope that Missouri will soon join most other states and pass freedom to work protections.

"Missouri has taken positive steps to improve our economy in recent years. We have passed tax reform and worked to improve our state’s legal climate. We are making great strides toward making our workforce one of the most competitive in the world. Freedom to work remains an important and worthy goal that the Missouri Chamber will continue to pursue.”

Some of the updates in St. Louis and St. Louis County are interesting.

  • Wesley Bell had a 53-47 lead on Bob McCulloch; reporter Jo Mannies says she believes many of those votes are coming from north St. Louis County, a Bell stronghold.
  • Mark Mantovani pulled within 3,500 votes of Steve Stenger. Gerry Welch, the mayor of Webster Groves, called him a “gift to the St. Louis region.”
  • In south St. Louis, Steve Butz defeated Travis Estes in the 81st House District race by 90 votes. The margin of victory (1.58 percent) falls just outside of the mandatory recount.
  • With about half of the precincts in, Michael Butler, a former state representative, was leading incumbent Recorder of Deeds Sharon Carpenter in reporter Jason Rosenbaum’s favorite race.
  • Karla May opened up a bigger lead on Jacob Hummel in the state Senate race.
  • Proposition 1, the no-tax-increase bond issue, was still winning by big margins.

And in other news, in a close race with all nine innings reporting, the Cardinals beat the Marlins 3-2.
9:15 p.m. — Hawley speaks, and possible upsets brewing

State Attorney General Josh Hawley, the newly-minted Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, delivered his victory speech in Springfield a few moments ago.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley addresses the crowd in Springfield, Missouri after winning the GOP primary for U.S. Senate on August 7, 2018. He will take on Claire McCaskill in November.
Credit KSMU
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley addresses the crowd in Springfield, Missouri, Tuesday after winning the GOP primary for U.S. Senate. He will take on Claire McCaskill in November.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Missouri’s conservatives have sent a clear message to the Washington establishment that “professional politicians have failed.”
  • “Missouri deserves a senator who is attracted not to the luxuries of office, but to its difficulties. A senator who knows public service means personal sacrifice.”
  • He issues his own debate challenge to McCaskill — “a series of one-on-one debates all over Missouri. No moderator. No complicated rules. No TV studio. Just the two of us debating in the best traditions of our country on the back of a flatbed truck.”

As more numbers come in, the possibility of a few upsets looms.
Ferguson Councilman Wesley Bell leads incumbent prosecutor Bob McCulloch 53 percent to 47 percent.

In the 4th state Senate District, which covers the western half of the city of St. Louis, Karla May, who is termed out as a state representative, leads incumbent Jacob Hummel by 374 votes, with about 20 percent of the precincts in.

In the GOP primary for state auditor, Saundra McDowell, a native of Springfield, Missouri and an attorney in Jefferson City, leads three more well-known rivals for the chance to take on Nicole Galloway in the fall.

And as reporter Marshall Griffin, who’s in St. Louis tonight from Jefferson City pointed out, the Cole County prosecutor Mark Richardson, an ally of former Gov. Eric Greitens, was denied another term in office. Richardson refused to prosecute Greitens for potential campaign finance violations, and is perhaps best known for prosecuting 23 protesters who disrupted Senate proceedings with demands for Medicaid expansion.

8:45 p.m. — A dive into Prop A

These results are still very early, because many of the larger counties have not yet reported numbers, but the opposition to so-called “right to work” is spread across the state, including in some counties that went heavily for President Trump in 2016.

For example, in Franklin County, just southwest of St. Louis, Trump beat Hillary Clinton by more than 23,000 votes, but Proposition A is losing by a 3-1 margin. In Lafayette County, near Kansas City, Trump won by nearly 7,000 votes, but Proposition A is losing by 3,000 or so votes.

That’s firing up the crowd at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 hall in south St. Louis. Lucas Geisler, with the ABC affiliate in Columbia, Missouri, posted this video.

David Kovaluk spotted St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson keeping tabs on the results.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, in black at center, watches the results come in at Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 in St. Louis on August 7, 2018
Credit David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, in black at center, watches the results come in at Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 in St. Louis.

And with the AP calling the U.S. Senate races for incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Josh Hawley, the Missouri attorney general, McCaskill has challenged Hawley to four town-hall style debates.

8:20 p.m. — County absentees show tight races

We finally have the absentee numbers from St. Louis County, and while it’s still very early, some incumbents may have a tough road ahead of them.

  • In the Democratic race for county excecutive, Steve Stenger leads Mark Mantovani by 532 votes 
  • Wesley Bell has a very slim (99-vote) lead on Bob McCulloch in the county prosecutor race
  • Lisa Clancy is up almost 2-1 on Pat Dolan
  • Lacy Clay is up over Cori Bush by the same margin
  • By a four-vote margin, voters in Hanley Hills are so far supporting the dissolution of their city

Bell presents McCulloch’s toughest challenge since his early elections. Reporter Abigail Censky, at McCulloch’s party at the Village Bar in Des Peres, says the crowd is paying tribute to his long tenure in office byhanging photos from 1991 (his first year in office) throughout the venue, including one “under a boar's head outside of the men's room.”

8 p.m. — City absentees and early scenes

Here’s what we’re seeing early in the city of St. Louis:

  • U.S. Rep Lacy Clay, D-University City, holds a large lead (65 percent to 29 percent) over Cori Bush
  • Steve Butz, a pro-life Democrat from south St. Louis, leads his opponent Travis Estes in the 81st District
  • Proposition 1, a no-tax-increase bond for things like fire trucks, is winning with 76 percent of the vote

That wide margin could become very important later on. The city charter says bond issues require approval by two-thirds of the voters. However, the city counselor’s office hasrecently taken the position that state law trumps city law, and therefore bond issues require just 57 percent (four-sevenths). Any number between 57 percent and 67 percent will likely lead to a lawsuit.

David Kovaluk snapped this shot at the union hall of Sheet Metal Workers Local 36, where opponents of Proposition A have gathered.

Opponents of Proposition A sign two large Vote No on Prop A posters, which are slated to hang in the headquarters of the Missouri AFL-CIO. Aug. 7, 2018
Credit David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio
Opponents of Proposition A on Tuesday sign two large Vote No on Prop A posters, which are slated to hang in the headquarters of the Missouri AFL-CIO.

Reporter Chad Davis says the Mark Mantovani party at the Frontenac Hilton has a very “business-casual vibe."

7:30 p.m. — Early results

The Missouri Secretary of State’s office has posted its first returns. It’s a small percentage, with just 22 of the state’s more than 3,200 precincts reporting.

  • Josh Hawley is winning big over his Republican challengers to take on Claire McCaskill, pulling in more than 50 percent of the vote in an 11-way race
  • Former state Rep. Paul Curtman leads his GOP rivals in the party’s primary for state auditor

Early results show Proposition A losing by a wide margin. Reporter Jason Rosenbaum, at the No on Prop A party, says he’s seen early numbers that show the measure losing even in Republican strongholds.

7:10 p.m. — Absentee voting up

Elections officials across the area say voting went smoothly, with no unusual issues. The big news so far: A spike in absentee ballots locally, and what seems to be high turnout statewide.

In the city of St. Louis, the number of people who voted absentee, in-person was up by about 400 voters from two years ago, said Gary Stoff, the Republican director of elections. Because it’s the city, the vast majority were Democratic ballots, as they always are.

Unusually, that was the case in St. Louis County too, said Eric Fey, its Democratic elections director. About 20,000 absentee ballots had been cast by Monday’s deadline, and two-thirds were Democratic. Twenty-seven percent of the absentee ballots were for Republicans, he said, with the remaining 6 percent split among nonpartisan or third party ballots. That increase could push turnout as high as 35 percent. The 4 p.m. count showed turnout at 24 percent, with some polling places above 30 percent.

Two years ago, in a presidential primary year, Fey said, 14,000 absentee ballots were cast, split almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats.

There could be several reasons for the disparity in Democratic and Republican ballots in the St. Louis County. First, there are very few competitive Republican primaries, while Democrats have competitive contests for several offices, including county executive and county prosecutor. That fact may also be leading some Republicans to pull Democratic ballots in an effort to have a say in some of those races. Finally, Proposition A, the referendum on so-called “right to work,” may have motivated the Democratic base in opposition more than the Republican base in support.

Reports from across Missouri indicate turnout is up in several jurisdictions. Will Schmitt, with the Springfield News-Leader, tweeted that officials believe turnout could be 25 percent in Greene County, with up to 50 percent in the city of Springfield. And KRCG-TV in Jefferson City reported that Boone County, which includes Columbia, Missouri, could see turnout at 30 percent.

7:00 p.m. — Polls close

Good evening everyone! It’s 7 p.m., which means the polls across Missouri have closed. If you are in line right now, you can vote.

Here's how tonight's live blog is going to work. We'll update this post with the latest numbers, insight from our reporters in the field, and other interesting tidbits we see along the way. The feed is in reverse chronological order, which means the newest information will be at the top of the post. Scroll down to see all our earlier coverage.

The St. Louis Public Radio newsroom is watching all the key races tonight. They include:

  • Proposition A, a referendum on Missouri’s so-called “right-to-work” law
  • The bitter and costly contest between incumbent St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and his Democratic primary opponent Mark Mantovani
  • Stenger’s last ally on the St. Louis County Council, 5th District Councilman Pat Dolan, a Democrat tries to hang onto his seat against Lisa Clancy
  • St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch faces his most serious challenge in decades from Ferguson Councilman Wesley Bell in a Democratic contest shaped by the death of Michael Brown
  • A skirmish in the battle over the direction of the Democratic Party, as Cori Bush takes on 17-year incumbent Lacy Clay in Missouri’s 1st Congressional District
  • Five Democrats vie for the right to challenge incumbent Republican Ann Wagner in Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District
  • Various state House and Senate races

We'll have complete coverage as the results become final. And tune in tomorrow to "St. Louis on the Air" for all of the analysis and context.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.