Cindy O’Laughlin is one of nine new State Senators who’ll join the next Missouri legislature in Jefferson City in January. She’s one of five Republican newcomers to receive at least 70% of the vote in GOP dominated mostly rural districts. O’Laughlin said campaigning became a fulltime job for her. “You know, it’s an everyday thing, six days a week, sometimes seven days a week,” said O’Laughlin.
The Shelbina businesswoman said she learned a lot about her future constituents while campaigning. “There are some really incredible people in our northeast part of the state. I’ve met so many of them and I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to gain an understanding of things that are going on in their lives and some of the challenges they have.”
O’Laughlin beat three Republican State Representatives — Lindell Shumake of Hannibal, Craig Redmon of Canton and Nate Walker of Kirksville — in a primary in which she largely self-financed.
Married with four children, O’Laughlin described herself to the Hannibal Courrier-Post as a Christian conservative. She told the paper a priority of hers is to reform entitlement legislation, saying she favors a graduated entitlement program that encourages individuals to go to work and helps them step out of the system of government aid. Doing so ultimately strengthens families, she said.
O’Laughlin owns a northern Missouri concrete business. The Quincy Herald-Whig reported that she’s also been a treasurer for the Missouri Club for Growth.
She says the time she spent on the campaign trail offered an insight into the people she’ll be representing. “What I kind of sacrificed on a personal level I think I gained professionally by knowing these people and witnessing the things that they’re doing,” O’Laughlin told Missourinet affiliate KWIX in Moberly. “It gives me an enthusiasm for what the future could hold for us.”
O’Laughlin is replacing term-limited Republican Brian Munzlinger of Williamstown in the expansive 14 county northeast Missouri Senate District 18.
Four other Republicans won their state Senate races by more than 70%. They include State Representative Mike Bernskoetter of Jefferson City in District 6, Justin Dan Brown in District 16 who will be assuming the seat his father is vacating because of term limits, former State Representative Eric W. Burlison of Battlefield in District 20 and State Representative Bill White of Joplin in District 32.
Two Republicans won Senate races by tighter margins in districts containing larger cities. Tony Luetkemeyer beat Democrat Martin T. Rucker II by a 52%-to-48% margin in western Missouri’s Senate District 30 which contains St. Joseph. Greene County Commissioner Lincoln Hough edged Democrat Charlie Norr in Senate District 30 which is home to Springfield in southwest Missouri.
Seven Republicans were reelected in the GOP dominated Senate. They include Bob Onder of Lake St. Louis in District 2, Mike Cierpiot of Kansas City in District 8, Jeanie Riddle of Mokane in District 10, Dan Hegeman of Cosby in District 12, Paul Wieland of Imperial in District 22, Dave Schatz of Sullivan in District 26 and Sandy Crawford of Buffalo in District 28.
Riddle, Hegeman, and Crawford were victorious with more than 70% of the ballots cast. Crawford, who accumulated close to 80% of the vote, was reelected after winning a special election in 2017. The seat became vacant following now Republican Governor Mike Parson of Bolivar’s victory to become the Lieutenant Governor following the 2016 election.
Two Democrats dominated contests in the St. Louis Area. Missouri House member Karla May garnered 77% of the vote in Senate District 4. Her Republican opponent, Robert J. Crump, gathered 23% of the ballots cast. May had beaten incumbent Democrat and union activist Jake Hummel of St. Louis in the primary election. Democrat Brian Williams ran unopposed in District 14, a seat being vacated by term-limited Maria Chappelle-Nadal.
Republican Senator Schatz was selected by his peers to the second highest position in the Missouri Senate in a reshuffling of leadership positions in the caucus. Thursday, Schatz was elected as the new Senate pro tem for the next two years. He was one of four state senators up for the pro tem position, including Mike Cunningham of Rogersville, Ed Emery of Lamar, and Onder. Schatz moves into the seat after Ron Richard of Joplin, who held the position, was term-limited out.
Meanwhile, Senator Caleb Rowden of Columbia was elected as majority floor leader. He replaces Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City who was appointed Lieutenant Governor by Governor Parson. State Democrats have challenged Parson’s authority to make the appointment in a lawsuit that the state Supreme Court is now considering. Senator Wayne Wallingford of Cape Girardeau was elected as assistant majority floor leader, replacing Onder lost his bid for the Pro-Tem position. Senator Crawford was chosen as majority caucus whip. Senator Hegeman won re-elected as majority caucus chairman while Senator Riddle was chosen as majority caucus secretary.
Missouri Senate Democrats reelected State Senator Gina Walsh of Bellefontaine Neighbors as Minority leader. The caucus selected Senator Shalonn “Kiki” Curls of Kansas City as Assistant Missouri Senate Democratic Leader, newly elected Senator Karla May of St. Louis as Caucus Chair and Senator Jamilah Nasheed of St. Louis as Caucus Whip.
(Missourinet affiliate KWIX and Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth contributed to this report)