ST. LOUIS — After months of campaigning, Tuesday’s special election came and went for Democrat Steve Hodges, and now he’s ready to keep up with what he said he’s never stopped doing these last few months: working for the people in his Missouri House district.
“I was quite surprised,” Hodges said about Tuesday’s Congressional race loss. “I am what southeast Missouri is all about. For me to be beat by 25,000 votes, well, I’ve got big shoulders. No one is going to push my face in the ground, but I was surprised.”
Hodges lost with 27 percent of the vote Tuesday night against newly elected Republican Congressman Jason Smith, who had 67 percent of the vote. Though the Secretary of State’s office reported about a 12 percent turn out for Missouri’s 8th Congressional District, Smith’s victory was still steep.
“There’s something out there that the Democrats don’t understand,” Hodges said, reflecting on the numbers. “Or else there’s been a sales job put out there. There were lots of Democrats in the district now voting Republican. Something changed.”
Near the end of the race, both campaigns were gaining notoriety for the amounts they raised. According to the Federal Ethics Commission, as of May 15, Smith raised $509,905, and Hodges raised $228,501.
While Hodges was out-raised by about 2-to-1, some Missouri politico spectators have commented about being surprised that the Hodges campaign was able to raise as much as they did in an area that’s been represented by a Republican since 1980.
“If you look at the numbers here at the end when they come out of what I got within the district and what he got within the district, and then the number of donors, plus the fact that [Smith] started a few weeks before I did, I’m proud of my effort,” Hodges said.
Joe Duffy, Missouri Democratic Party Executive Director, said the involvement of the party in the election “sends a clear signal” that the Democrats are going to compete everywhere in the state down the road.
“There are clearly some pick-up opportunities for Democrats in southeast Missouri,” Duffy said. “Particularly if you look at how well a statewide candidate like Gov. [Jay] Nixon performed in the 8th District.”
Hodges’ campaign manager Jake Breymaier said comparing what Hodges did during this campaign to what other Democrats in the 8th District have during the past four or five years, he ranks among the top in terms of financial success.
“Democrats down here can raise money too,” Breymaier said. “It’s just where that money comes from that’s interesting.”
Hodges said when all is said and done — as it currently is — he wouldn’t change a thing about the way he approached the race.
“There are no sour grapes on my part,” he said. “I called Jason and wished him the best Tuesday night. I know we both learned things. I’m going to take my experiences back to Jefferson City and he’s taking his to D.C.”
With seven sessions under his belt, Hodges said his time in the Missouri House has been the best of his life. In the coming year — his final one in the House before he’s term limited out — he said he hopes to continue work on issues that he wasn’t able to get through this year regarding custody rights for grandparents. And of course, continuing to work with his constituents.
Breymaier said that multiple times during the campaign, he would be working at Hodges’ home and constituents would call to ask questions or for help.
“He doesn’t have a home office so he gives his constituents his home number,” Breymaier said. “Accessibility with a lot of candidates I’ve worked for is here and there, but it’s definitely not that way with Steve.”
Hodges said after four months of a dress shirt, coat and tie, he’s looking forward to a little bit of down time.
“I came home [Tuesday night] and sat in the chair in our living room for a second, then woke up the next morning at 6 a.m.,” he added, laughing. “I worked pretty hard.”
Hodges said he has two ideas lined up after his term in the House ends. While he said he’s not ready to share what those ideas are, he’s sure he will “end up doing one of the two.”
“I really do consider this race to be a blessing,” he said. “It’s expanded my world and made me understand many more things. Now, Mr. Smith is going to Washington and Mr. Hodges is going back to Jefferson City.”
Ashley Jost is no longer with The Missouri Times. She worked as the executive editor for several months, and a reporter before that.