By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog
ST. LOUIS – Primary election night. It’s the evening that shapes the November race.
Campaign semifinals are completed, thus setting party battles in the general election.
Candidates gathered with supporters across the city Tuesday night to watch the results and, maybe, give victory speeches.
Smiles were ubiquitous at the Frontenac Hilton near the well-to-do neighborhood of Clayton, where crowds attended viewing parties for two GOP candidates – Dave Spence for governor and Ann Wagner for U.S. House District 2.
Both won easily.
Supporters began filling spacious Clayton Ballroom at the Hilton around 7 p.m., about the time the polls were closing across Missouri.
Spence campaign aide and emcee Malcolm Briggs told the growing crowd to invite friends to the party.
“From what I understand, Dave’s buying the drinks and the food,” he said, eliciting laughs.
Early poll numbers showed Spence comfortably ahead with more than 60 percent of the vote.
Briggs didn’t want to appear too confident. His conversation with Missouri Watchdog focused on Spence’s track record as a
The 54-year-old Spence was CEO for Alpha Packaging for more than 25 years after buying the company in 1985, but he stepped down to run for governor. The company makes plastic bottles for pharmaceuticals.
Briggs said he thinks Missouri is losing new industry and jobs to other states because it lacks a governor with a strong sense for business.
“I think Dave would be good for the state of Missouri,” Briggs said. “We need a CEO at the helm.”
Some other key races that flashed on a projection screen drew interest from the crowd, which grew to about 300 and filled most available space in the ballroom.
William Lacy Clay had an early 2-to-1 lead over Russ Carnahan in the U.S. House District 1 race. The two former Democratic allies were pitted against one other after post-Census redistricting by the Republican-controlled Missouri General Assembly. Todd Akin held what many would consider a surprising lead in the GOP U.S. Senate primary over John Brunner and Sarah Steelman.
Clay and Akin would go on to win their parties’ nominations.
On the other side of the Hilton complex, in the Frontenac Ballroom, the campaign party for Wagner was more subdued. Held in a smaller venue, about 100 people snacked, imbibed and chatted about the events of the day.
Russ Schamburg, his wife, Katherine, and David Hoffman – all clad in Ann Wagner campaign shirts – waited for the results.
Hoffman said he’s worked on other campaigns, but perhaps not with such a motivated group. Supporters worked the phones, mailed fliers and sponsored a number of events to promote Wagner, a first-time candidate who chaired Roy Blunt’s 2010 U.S. Senate campaign.
“No win can be assumed,” Hoffman said. “Every vote has to be earned, and that’s what Ann did.”
Russ Schamburg said Wagner would be an active lawmaker.
“She’s not going to be in the back row of Congress,” he said. “She’s going to be a leader.”
As more results came in, Spence was assured a victory and arrived about 9 p.m. to speak to well-wishers.
“We know Missouri can do better,” he said. “We just need better leadership.”
Spence will face incumbent Gov. Jay Nixon in the Nov. 6 general election. Nixon easily won the Democratic primary Tuesday with 86 percent of the vote.
He pledged to put “job trainers” rather than “political cronies” in the state’s Department of Economic Development. Spence said “career politicians” don’t know how to get Missouri out of its economic turmoil, and he pledges to reduce unemployment.
“Together we will put our state back to work,” Spence said.
As the post-celebration continued, Wendy Gray said she was proud of the man she has known for most of her life, calling him her “little
“His values, his morals and everything in life he’s done is what Missouri needs,” she said of Spence.
The District 2 race was called for Wagner shortly thereafter, and the 49-year-old arrived for her victory speech after Spence
finished his. Wagner pledged to be “a fighter for families, values and job creators.”
“I’m so proud of my supporters and our team,” she told Missouri Watchdog after her speech. “They’re the winners.
“We’re going to work all the way through November.”
She will face either of two Democratic nominees. A winner in the tight battle between Glenn Koenen and Harold Whitfield has yet to be declared.
Wagner said winning the primary was the “first hurdle.” If the district’s history is any indication, she’s a shoo-in for the office.
Akin has held the seat since 2001, but gave it up to run for the open U.S. Senate seat this year.
The last Democrat to hold office in District 2 was Joan Kelly Horn, from 1991 to 1993.
In her television ads she promises to “cut up the government’s credit card.”
She focused on that issue in her comments Tuesday.
“Hopefully, we can rein in this federal government and keep them from mortgaging the future of our children,” Wagner said.
She served as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg from 2005 to 2009 before returning home to Ballwin.
Wagner said she was born and raised in District 2, and attended school there.
“Never did I think this community could give me this opportunity,” she said.
Email Kampis at email@example.com