Democrats flipped a Missouri senate seat long held by the GOP in a Tuesday night special election held just days after Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican, resigned under a cloud of scandal.
The result suggests that the Greitens effect, combined with anti-Trump energy among Democrats, could pose serious problems for Republicans this fall, when a crucial Senate race will be on the ballot.
Democrat Lauren Arthur beat Republican Kevin Corlew with nearly 60 percent of the vote. In 2016, President Trump won the district, which had been under Republican control for over a decade, by 5 points.
Neither candidate, both of whom currently serve in the state assembly, campaigned much on the blackmail and campaign finance allegations that finally prompted Greitens to step down last week after months of turmoil. Arthur focused on labor rights and income inequality, while Corlew emphasized infrastructure and education.
But the governor’s drama loomed over the race, and Missouri Republican strategists cautioned ahead of time that he would be a drag on their candidates in down-ballot contests.
Some blamed Greitens for another GOP special election loss back in February, linking a steep drop in the governor’s favorability after his scandals went public to a shocking defeat for a state assembly seat in a dark-red district.
A GOP consultant in the state told the Kansas City Star that Tuesday’s results boded poorly for his party in the upcoming midterm elections.
“Every suburban Republican should be petrified tonight,” the operative said. “This devastating loss signals they could lose this fall.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill, who is locked in a close race to keep her seat against Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley, released a statement suggesting as much.
“Lauren’s 19-point margin shows that Missourians are ready for candidates that will fight for working families and education, rather than being part of the sideshow that Jefferson City under total Republican leadership has become,” McCaskill said.