COLUMBIA, Mo. – New polls from the Missouri Times released late Friday show a tie between Democratic Rep. Stephen Webber and Republican Rep. Caleb Rowden in their race to become the next state senator in Senate District 19 with 45 percent of the electorate apiece. That race is the only race the Missouri Times is still calling a toss-up, especially as a survey from Senate District 1 indicates that Sen. Scott Sifton has taken a 9-point lead over challenger Dr. Randy Jotte 49-40.
In Columbia, the race could not be tighter. The race is split almost evenly along gender lines; Rowden and Webber each have 44 percent of the male vote, thought Webber leads slightly with women 46 percent to 45. Voters from House Districts 44 (his own district), 48, and 50 all support Rowden by at least 18 points, though Webber holds strong leads in House Districts 46 (his own district) and 47. Webber also has a 3-point lead in House District 45.
Webber leads by 11 points in HD 47 where Republican Rep. Chuck Basye is currently fighting to hold off Democratic challenger Susan McClintic. However, Cheri Reisch in HD 44 could benefit in her race against Tom Pauley from Rowden’s 22-point lead in that district.
The full survey can be read below. It was conducted from Nov. 2 to Nov. 3 of 530 likely voters. There is a margin of error of +/- 4.2
The eight day before the election reports released Oct. 31 showed that both campaigns have spent nearly a combined $4 million in the Senate race, easily the most expensive Senate race in state history. Webber, who began with almost a $2 million war chest has just over $40,000 cash on hand for the remaining week.
Webber vs. Rowden down to the wire
We have already detailed just how valuable this Senate seat is to both parties. Webber has touted his military record as an Iraq veteran and a respected and relatively progressive member of the Democratic House caucus in a liberal-friendly district. Rowden has run as someone willing to take on both parties’ members of leadership and as a more moderate Republican option in a growing district that may be turning into a lighter shade of blue on the electoral map.
In the past week, both candidates have come out with ads lambasting the others’ record in the House. Webber’s ad accuses Rowden of political cowardice for a 2013 incident where Rowden skipped out on a vote because he was unwilling to oppose then-Budget Committee chair Rick Stream and the other members of the Republican Party on that budget committee. Rowden said he wanted to study the matter further and was looking to offer an alternative to the option.
Webber has also attacked Rowden’s family for getting money from special interests after Rowden get into office. That attack crossed the line for Rowden, who denied that his family had received money due to his position in the state legislature.
“The insinuation that I used my position to influence the decisions made by private businesses is a blatant lie and beneath someone holding public office,” Rowden said. “I respect Stephen enough not to bring his family into this campaign. It is unfortunate he doesn’t share that respect.
Meanwhile, Rowden’s campaign feels confident that if that’s the best attack Rowden has, it will not be enough to beat him.
The Rowden camp has also alleged that Webber has voted against legislation that would crack down on sex offenders and that he has opposed bills that would benefit the Columbia area especially on matters of both K-12 and higher education.
So, the final week should be especially telling. Both campaigns will be pulling out all of the stops. Webber’s campaign chair Emily Waggoner, said that they will have volunteers phone banking every night from here until the election with hundreds of canvassers scheduled to knock doors in an effort to get out the vote.
“More than anything, we’re incredibly thankful to all of the people in our community that have devoted countless hours of their time and energy because of a shared belief that mid-Missouri deserves a state senator like Stephen Webber who will protect and promote Mizzou and our public schools,” Waggoner said.
Jon Ratliff, Rowden’s campaign manager, said that they would be doing similar events, especially trying to sway undecided voters.
“Our big thing is to try to show the contrast between the two candidates,” Ratliff said.
On Halloween night, a group of Rowden supporters stood on the busy corner of Providence and Broadway in downtown Columbia. One of them wore a Where’s Waldo outfit and held a sign asking “Where’s Webber?” referencing the missed vote attack.
Even with those advantages, it’s no stretch to say the race has been an uphill battle for Rowden from the start, and Webber’s race to lose. Ratliff admitted this, noting that Rowden started the race down nine points, but has made gains week after week to make the race increasingly competitive. Ratliff said he expects Rowden to emerge victorious and is confident that his campaign has done everything it has needed to do to win.
“Republicans have a long history of winning the competitive races in Boone County,” he said. “No one thought we were going to win in 2012 with Caleb [Rowden] and we did, no one thought we were going to win in 2014 with Chuck [Basye] and we did, and I’m confident we will continue to surprise and amaze.”
With the new poll results, it appears that the Rowden campaign has every reason to be confident they have indeed caught up to Webber.
Sifton leads in South St. Louis County
Senate District 1 appears to be a much different story. While Jotte was a top recruit for the Republicans, Sifton appears to have a leg up on him in the contest with a 49-40 lead in a survey specific to that district. Sifton leads in every House district except for HD 94 and 95. Sifton also has 84 percent of the Democratic vote and 15 percent of the Republican vote while Jotte has only 76 percent of the Republican vote, and 10 percent of the Democratic vote. Sifton also leads among independents 44 percent to 39.
The full poll can be accessed below. It was conducted from Nov. 2 to Nov. 3 from a sample of 940 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 3.16 percent.
Jotte also came out with a new advertisement touting his work as an emergency room doctor and his willingness to work across the aisle.