The ongoing urban-rural divide in voting amongst Missouri Democrats and Republicans was reflected in Tuesday’s U.S. Senate race.
The loser in the contest, incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill, may have been onto something when she said the constant presence of President Trump, who visited the state seven times during the election cycle, motivated both sides.
The high number of ballots cast for Republican challenger Josh Hawley in less populated counties gave him a majority 51% of the votes in the election. The first-term state attorney general won all but four of Missouri’s 114 counties, garnering a 70% or larger share of the vote in at least 45 of them. In many cases, fewer than 5,000 total ballots were cast in those counties. In three rural counties – Barton, Mercer, and Stoddard – Hawley accumulated at least 80% of the vote.
By contrast, McCaskill lost the election while collecting 62% of the votes in the two largest counties, St. Louis (population 996,726) and Jackson (699,000). She accumulated 84% of the ballots cast in St. Louis City (309,000) while generating a plurality of votes, 49% versus 47% for Hawley in Clay County (242,900) near Kansas City. McCaskill also won Boone, the 7th largest County (178,271) and home to the University of Missouri with 56% of the vote.
Hawley won a plurality of ballots cast in Platte County (101,200) near Kansas City by a razor-thin 48.6%-48.2% margin.
The Republican won 10 counties with less than 60% of the votes cast. They included the third and fourth largest counties – St. Charles in the St. Louis metro area (population 395,000) at 53% and Greene in southwest Missouri (289,800) at 55%. Greene County is home to Springfield, Missouri’s 3rd largest city.
He won by a 70% or greater margin while accumulating more 10,000 votes in several counties. Among them were the 13th and 14th largest counties – Christian (85,400) and Cape Girardeau (78,200). Hawley received 25,400 votes in southwest Missouri’s Christian County and collected 23,000 ballots cast in southeast Missouri’s Cape Girardeau County. He also received 73% of the vote totaling 15,100 in Taney County (55,400), which is home to the state’s biggest tourist destination of Branson and accumulated a 71% share which totaled 10,300 in southwest Missouri’s Webster County (10,332).
Hawley dominated voting in wide swaths of heavily rural northern Missouri where the 6th Congressional District stretches to both sides of the state, bordering Kansas and Illinois, and encompasses the entire northern border. The country’s 435 Congressional Districts are divided into sections that have populations of roughly 711,000. Republican Sam Graves has occupied Missouri’s 6th District seat since 2001.
Two of the three counties where Hawley garnered greater than 80% of the vote, Barton, and Mercer, are in the 6th congressional district.
Hawley garnered 53% of the vote in Buchanan County which is home to the city of St. Joseph.