The seat had most recently been held by Republican Jean Evans but became vacant when she left the General Assembly to take over as executive director of the Missouri GOP.
Gunby defeated Pitman with 3,357 votes to the GOP contender’s 2,855, according to initial election returns.
While a competitive race this cycle — arguably the most competitive of the six special House elections across Missouri Tuesday — HD 99 has typically gone to a Republican in the past several elections. Both candidates drew big names to campaign in the tight race ahead of the election.
Gunby credits her win, in part, to authenticity. She said her platform was made of ideas she had been talking about or advocating for in her community for years.
“I didn’t have to create a platform, I just carried it into the race,” she told The Missouri Times. “Be authentic about what you believe and be truthful, and that’s what I did. I ran a very issue-focused campaign, this is what I believe.”
She also said — despite being approached to do so — she made it a point not to engage in negative campaigning. Gunby said voters told her they were “tired of the divisiveness” at both the state and national levels.
“Trish Gunby’s win proves that progressive candidates can win in districts Republicans consider safe,” Missouri Democratic Party Executive Director Lauren Gepford said. “Flipping this district from red to blue with Trish’s election shows that voters are going to hold extremist Republicans accountable, and in this day in age, the Missouri Republican Party is getting more and more extreme.”
State Auditor Nicole Galloway, who is running for governor, said Gunby “was the best candidate, ran the superior campaign, and will be a needed voice for working families in the General Assembly.”
“The result in the 99th district special election represents a clear repudiation of the extreme Parson agenda and dishonest GOP campaign tactics,” Galloway said.
Gunby is a former Citicorp Mortgage and Purina employee with a background in project management and marketing. She has been active in the community through local projects and volunteer work.
She studied political science as well as advertising and public relations at the University of Tulsa.
She plans to hit the ground running with town hall meetings throughout her district this month.
“I just want to connect with the residents one more time before I head out and get a sense, in a more controlled setting, and hear what they want,” Gunby said. “I want to open that up to the whole district.”
Gunby had the backing of the Missouri AFL-CIO, which applauded her “historic” win.
“Union workers have worked hard to win this seat the past few months. From striking UAW workers all across the state to grocery store workers to members and retired union members from all various walks of life, union workers have had her back,” Michael Lewis, Missouri AFL-CIO president, said in a statement. “We knew that this may just be one seat, but the fight starts small and together we can make real, lasting change.
Pitman worked for Protective Life Corporation as a senior accountant for nearly two decades. She has a degree in business administration from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Ahead of the election, Gunby had significantly more cash on hand: $62,214 compared to Pitman’s $7,066. Notably, police associations backed Pitman in the race whereas firefighters — as well as a number of liberal groups — chose Gunby.
Missouri Democrats weighed in on Gunby’s victory on social media:
— Nicole Galloway, CPA (@nicolergalloway) November 6, 2019
Congratulations to Representative-elect Trish Gunby @TrishForMo on a BIG win in #MO99!!! Trish flipped a Red seat Blue through hard work & a winning message. A sign of good things to come for Missouri Democrats in 2020!!!
— Gina Walsh (@walshgina) November 6, 2019
— Brian Williams (@BrianWilliamsMO) November 6, 2019
— Lauren Arthur (@LaurenArthurMO) November 6, 2019
— Missouri Democrats (@MoDemParty) November 6, 2019
BREAKING: @TrishForMO just won a special election, flipping Missouri's HD-99, a district Trump won in 2016! Trish is determined to defend reproductive freedom and advocate for anti-discrimination laws! pic.twitter.com/VAmlDaj8do
— Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (@DLCC) November 6, 2019
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a reporter with The Missouri Times and The Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the newspaper in 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City. Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S. and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa. She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.