A new era is underway at the Missouri Democratic Party. Outgoing Columbia Rep. Stephen Webber has been chosen as the party’s new chairperson. He says the top priority for the party is getting U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill re-elected in 2018.

“I think every election in Missouri is a tough statewide election and Senator McCaskill has had really tough elections in the past. She’s a tough campaigner. Nobody is going to outwork her and she’s won multiple times in state elections,” says Webber.

Stephen Webber (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Stephen Webber (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Some say McCaskill and the other Democratic statewide officeholder, State Auditor Nicole Galloway, are vulnerable in 2018. Republicans swept all statewide offices on the general election ballot last month.

“The political pendulum swings in Missouri back and forth it seems like every couple cycles one party is written off,” says Webber. “In 2008, Democrats won every statewide except for lieutenant governor and even in 2012. It goes back and forth and our job is to make sure Democrats win sooner rather than later.”

Webber also wants to focus on electing Democrats in both urban and rural areas. Most of Missouri’s Republican legislators live in rural area districts.

“We need to do better at both. We need to move forward in all directions. We need to make sure that we are getting every vote we can out of Democratic strongholds and we need to make sure we are competitive in all parts of the state,” says Webber.

He recalls in 2009 when Democratic legislators were in rural areas including in northeast Missouri, the Bootheel, Cass and Jefferson counties and Macon.

Webber, of Columbia, lost a close state Senate race in the November general election to Republican Caleb Rowden.

All of the party’s new officers are under 40 years old. Webber says the move shows that the party’s intention is to make some changes.

“I think it’s important to acknowledge that we need everybody and there’s a lot of people who’ve been involved in progressive policies for decades,” says Webber. “We need their experience. We need their wisdom. We need what they bring to the table. So, it’s important to keep that in mind but I think it’s exciting to have young people leading the party.”

Webber says the leadership team is also geographically balanced with representation in urban and rural areas. The party has elected Genevieve Williams as vice-chair, Velda Village Hills Rep. Clem Smith as secretary and Kansas City Rep. Lauren Arthur as treasurer.