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Public Radio Reporters Review Tuesday's Election

St. Louis County Executive-elect Steve Stenger talks to St. Louis Public Radio reporters Nov. 5, 2014, during a recording of the 'Politically Speaking' podcast.
Chris McDaniel
St. Louis Public Radio

Wednesday on “St. Louis on the Air,” we gathered our political reporters to recap Tuesday’s election. The consensus: Republicans ruled the night.

“It was a Republican bloodbath, nationally and regionally,” said Jo Mannies, St. Louis Public Radio political reporter. “But it also shows that St. Louis County is definitely Democratic turf because the only two Democratic candidates — big names — who remained standing were Steve Stenger and Jill Schupp.”

Schupp narrowly won her contest against Jay Ashcroft for the 24th District Senate seat. That seat, which includes Creve Coeur, Town and Country, Olivette, Maryland Heights and Chesterfield, was one of the most expensive in the state. Both parties funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race.

Stenger ended up with a 1,768 vote lead over Republican Rick Stream in the St. Louis County executive race. Stenger stopped by St. Louis Public Radio on Wednesday afternoon to talk about the election on the “Politically Speaking” podcast; part of that interview will be heard Thursday on “St. Louis on the Air.”

But the win puts Stenger in a difficult position, Mannies said.

“The guy won by over 30 points just a couple months ago, and because of the unrest in Ferguson, (the) split in Democratic ranks, just a lot of things, he’s going to have to spend a lot of time healing bridges or at least getting people to listen to him and work together in order to have a strong beginning of his tenure,” she said.

“I think Rick Stream can find solace that he probably did better than any Republican candidate for his office in a generation,” said Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio innovation reporter. “I think that sets him up well if he wants to run for the state senate in 2016.”

“I think Stream did offer a pattern, so to speak, for how Republicans can successfully maneuver in St. Louis County,” Mannie said. “It kind of sets the stage for kind of how to be a class act and actually move forward.”

If there is a recount, neither Mannies nor Rosenbaum expect it to make much of a difference.

“I think the margin is too big for (Stream) to overcome,” Rosenbaum said. 

Elsewhere in Missouri

“I think it was incredibly damaging for the Democrats in Missouri,” Rosenbaum said. “They lost enormous amounts of ground in traditionally Democratic strongholds in Jefferson County (and) southeast Missouri, and they are now completely wiped out in northeast Missouri.”

In Jefferson County’s race for the 22nd District Senate seat, Rep. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, easily defeated Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart. Wieland also defeated Roorda in 2010 in a race for a state House seat. Roorda, who also serves as the business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association, gained attention in recent months for helping raise money for Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Michael Brown in August.

“It was definitely a very good night for the Republicans statewide,” said Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio’s Missouri statehouse reporter. “The supermajority, which was just barely a supermajority, is now a very strong supermajority in the House. There was even one pick-up in the Senate. (Republicans) have a very comfortable supermajority in the House.”

Rep. John Diehl, R-Town and Country, was expected to be named the House’s speaker-elect on Wednesday afternoon.

Half of the state’s constitutional amendments were approved. Amendment 10 may be the most controversial of those amendments.

“That particular amendment will limit (the governor’s) ability to withhold money from the state budget,” Griffin said. “Specifically, it will allow House and Senate members to override withholds. That brings up the question: Can the governor just withhold the money again?”

“The state constitution requires that the state end each fiscal year with a balanced budget, and it gives the governor the responsibility of making sure that it’s balanced,” Mannies said. “If the General Assembly decides they don’t want to cut this, they don’t want to cut that, they don’t want to cut the other, so then they override all these withholds, well then he’s got to withhold money from somewhere else. It’s not like Congress where they can balk at it and then it just becomes a deficit. In Missouri, it can’t happen.”

In Illinois

In Illinois, traditionally a strong Democrat state, a Republican won the governor’s office.

“It proves in a lot of ways, crazily given that we will now have a Republican governor taking over in Illinois, how very blue the state of Illinois is,” said Amanda Vinicky, Illinois Public Media’s Illinois statehouse reporter. “Some of these other races where you had expected even Republicans like Judy Barr Topinka to soar — she came in really darn close, so it shows how very Democratic Illinois is. Except, of course, when you have a candidate with a whole lot of money and a really unpopular governor, as we did with Pat Quinn.”

Chicago businessman Bruce Rauner unseated Quinn to become the state’s first Republican governor since 2002.

“It’s going to be one of the more interesting times in Illinois politics going forward,” Vinicky said. “Especially with a Republican governor who wants right-to-work and who had gotten an anti-union campaign in this very Democratic and union state. It’s going to be very fun.”

South of Springfield, Republican Mike Bost knocked off incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart for the 12th District seat.

“St. Louis on the Air” discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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