The legislative session is over. Now, the battle for control of the Missouri House truly begins.
House Democrats have been saying all year that they will regain control of the House this November. House Democratic Campaign Committee Chairman, Rep. Rachel Storch of St. Louis, says this is a Democratic year.
"We feel very confident that we’re gonna pick up a lot of seats, it’s just a matter of how many," Storch tells the Missourinet, "We need 11 seats to take back a majority, but when the Republicans took over in 2002 they won 14 seats that year. So, sometimes the caucus chambers flip in big chunks."
Storch says Democrats believe this is their year, from the top of the ticket all the way down the ballot. She doesn’t believe the prolonged contest between Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will hurt Democrats. Storch says it shows an increasing interest by Democrats. Also, Storch believes there is a certain insulation from national politics that state representative candidates enjoy.
Democrats must pick up 11 seats to win the majority in the Missouri House, which has 163 members. The session ended with 18 open seats, mainly due to term limits. That grew to 20 with the announcement by Rep. Brad Robinson (D-Bonne Terre) and Rep. T. Scott Muschany (R-St. Louis) that they will not run for re-election. Storch considers 11 to 14 of those seats "in play" with Democrats having a good chance of picking up many of them. Term limits will force out about 10 House Democrats. Storch believes only two of those are in jeporady, though the recent announcement by Robinson could raise that number.
House Republican Campaign Committee Chairman, Rep. Steven Tilley of Perryville, acknowledges Republicans will play defense this year.
"I’d say we’ve got more difficult races than they do," Tilley says in an interview with the Missourinet, "We have 15 Republicans that are termed out. About seven of those seats are seats that we are definitely going win no matter what and there are about seven or eight that are kind of borderline."
Tilley considers only one seat now held by a Democrat up for grabs this November, the seat now held by Rep. Jim Whorton (D-Trenton). Republicans lost a net of five years in 2006. Tilley insists that shows the strength of the party, not its weakness. He says Republicans faced incredible electoral problems two years ago and the party still maintained control of the House.
There are 91 Republicans and 70 Democrats in the House, with two vacancies.