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Koenig holds onto Senate race in tight contest with Lavender

  

Sen. Andrew Koenig defended his SD 15 seat Tuesday, defeating Democratic challenger Rep. Deb Lavender — a victory for the Senate Conservative Caucus.

“While serving in Jefferson City, I have fought to allow Missourians to keep more of their hard-earned income,” Koenig said. “I think families know better how to budget their money than bureaucracy does. Over the next four years, I will continue to advocate for lower taxes and quality education in Jefferson City.” 

Koenig defeated Lavender with 54 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting Tuesday night. 

“The number one issue we heard about during this campaign was law and order. We have become a society where the far left has abandoned the concept of law and order and goes so far as to demand our law enforcement officers be defunded,” Koenig said. “Now, more than ever, our families and communities need to be protected, and the voters agreed with us.” 

Aside from crime, a major talking point around the race was abortion. Koenig was credited with pushing through 2019’s massive abortion bill that spurred Lavender into action

“There are a lot of people upset with this decision. A lot of us feel that this decision has stepped over the line,” Lavender said of the bill last year. “Inside of that, I think it’s the right thing to take on one of the senators who is the author of the banning of abortions in Missouri.”

The Democratic representative opted to run for the Senate seat rather than try for a final term in the House, promising to tackle climate change, gun control, and public education in the upper chamber. She said last year she believed voters would find her to be “conservative in the budget area.”

During a debate on “This Week in Missouri Politics,” the Democratic challenger voiced her support for a statewide mask mandate in response to COVID-19, while Koenig praised Gov. Mike Parson’s focus on local control and advocated for an education-based approach to health precautions. 

The candidates also differed on the subject of violent crime, with Koenig hoping for a second chance for the concurrent jurisdiction bill he introduced in the Senate this year, a provision that became part of this summer’s special session on violent crime. Lavender said she opposed defunding the police, saying she would advocate for a pay increase for police officers as well as increased safety procedures. 

Lavender was first elected to the Missouri House in 2015. During her time in the lower chamber, she has served as the ranking minority member on the Rules — administrative Oversight Committee and the Subcommittee on Appropriations — Health, Mental Health, and Social Services. 

The Republican incumbent began his tenure in the upper chamber in 2016 after serving in the House since 2009. Before his legislative career, Koenig co-owned a small business and worked as an insurance adjuster. 

Hillary Clinton won the county in the 2016 presidential election by a wide margin, winning nearly 80 percent of the vote while President Donald Trump came in just under 16 percent. Koenig won his first term in the Senate at nearly 63 percent of the vote in the traditionally conservative county in the same election. 

The Missouri Times called the race a “toss-up” in its most recent predictions, noting that the election would see the results of the last four years on the county’s political leaning.