Missouri House map made more competitive districts for Democrats

A new Missouri House district map is just one possible reason House Democrats will have three more lawmakers in the upcoming session.

The new map, created by a bipartisan commission earlier this year, created a more competitive electoral map with more seats for Democrats in areas like Kansas City, Columbia and Springfield.

Anita Manion, assistant professor of political science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said Democrats won 13 of the 20 contested seats in the past election.

“The fact that they won a majority of the contested seats in a mid-election year is a very strong achievement for them, I think,” Manion said.

Though House Republicans still have a supermajority, Manion says it will be the largest of any House Democrats counting since 2012 with 52 seats compared to 111 for the Republicans, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State.

The gains come from a year in which Republicans nationwide underperformed, although Missouri had both statewide elections with Republican winners, including U.S. Senator-elect Eric Schmitt.

Rep. Ashley Aune, D-Kansas City, said one area that has benefited from the new map is Boone County.

“I think what helped us the most there was that I think the previous State House map around Columbia looks pretty convoluted,” Aune said.

However, Aune said other breeds, including her own, had become more competitive with the new districts. In her case, the talks she’s had with potential voters have made her confident that she would win in November.

“Democrats and Republicans look at Democratic candidates and understand that their values, beliefs and priorities actually align with those of the Democratic Party,” Aune said.

Rep. Kurtis Gregory, R-Marshall, agrees the card helped some of their candidates lose this election cycle.

“We saved hard and put a lot of money against some of their candidates, but it didn’t play out the way we wanted on the Republican side,” Gregory said.

However, the map isn’t necessarily the only reason Democrats posted gains in the House of Representatives. Manion also recognizes the candidates who ran as well as their campaigns, which involved more face-to-face efforts compared to 2020, which was more digital because of the pandemic.

“They did a lot less in-person events, door-to-door canvassing, and those kinds of on-the-spot campaign tactics that Republicans continued to use. But this year we’ve seen Democrats come out in full force with their grassroots efforts. And I think that helped,” Manion said.

Other things that may have helped Democrats this cycle include the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, and the ballot appearance of Amendment 3, which expanded Missouri’s marijuana program into recreational use.

Rep. Emily Weber of D-Kansas City said abortion was the biggest factor that helped Democrats that had nothing to do with the new card. Missouri became the first state in the country to enact its ban on abortion following the Supreme Court decision.

“Every time we walked in the door it was about reproductive health. They were worried about their birth control. They were afraid of ectopic pregnancies because that was also discussed in the house,” Weber said.

Gregory says the Supreme Court’s decision likely weighed on some people, but that Republicans benefited from the ruling that came earlier in the year.

“If the Dobbs decision had come in September, October, it could have possibly been a much worse night for us,” Gregory said.

Weber and Gregory also said they believed Amendment 3, which was on the ballot, could have impacted candidate elections because it likely had more Democratic than Republican support.

In terms of how that will affect lawmakers’ work in this session, Gregory said lawmakers broadly agree with most of the bills that pass. For those that normally boil down to party lines, he still expects them to be introduced.

Weber said the House Democrats weren’t done yet.

“We gained three places, yes. But technically there are eight seats up for grabs on this map [the] HCCC [House Democratic Campaign Committee] won’t stop working,” Weber said.

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