Stephanie Hein is now the incoming State Representative for House District 136. (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

An earlier version of this story misstated the number of the House District currently represented by Craig Fishel.

Springfield took a step toward being a so-called purple city with Tuesday’s elections, as three Democrats and three Republicans took victories in competitive races for the state legislature.

However, if you look more closely at some of the numbers, and results statewide, it wasn’t so black and white – nor red (Republican) or blue (Democrat). (An area is considered purple if it is an area that can swing either red or blue.)

The headliner for Springfield is that Democrat Stephanie Hein toppled two-term incumbent Republican Craig Fishel in House District 136 by 202 votes.

Note: Each Greene County race has one outstanding precinct. The remaining votes will come from military and overseas ballots, according to the Greene County Clerk. See current unofficial results for all races on the clerk’s website.

Hein thinks the 136th responded well to her door-knocking and platform

Hein attributes much of her success to her aggressive campaign, and how many voters they reached by door-to-door canvassing.

“I believe it was the conversations at the doors,” Hein said. “We made it seven times through the district and made 30,000 attempts to reach voters. Having those one-on-one conversations, I think, for me, as a new candidate, made a big difference.”

Additionally, she thinks her messaging resonated well with voters. As a Democratic candidate that was subject to numerous attack ads paid for by the House Republican Campaign Committee and PACs that supported her opponent, Hein didn’t see any reason to return the favor. 

Hein said she wanted to be able to walk away from this campaign, win or lose, and be proud of the work they did and hold her head up high.

“There really wasn’t any reason to bring my opponent into the conversation,” she said. “You can look at his record and you could figure out what he has done and hasn’t done. I really wanted to stay focused on me and what I could do to help the community.

One seat at a time for Democrats as Republican control of legislature continues

In addition to Hein, Democratic incumbents Betsy Fogle and Crystal Quade were reelected in their respective districts, as well as Republicans Alex Riley and Sen. Lincoln Hough. Republican Melanie Stinnett defeated Democrat Amy Blansit to win House District 133, which was an open seat but was previously held by Republicans.

133rd district candidate Melanie Stinnett seen here at the Greene County Republican watch party at the Oasis Hotel and Convention Center in Springfield on November 8, 2022. (Photo by Bruce Stidham)

While the competitive races split evenly, Greene County is still a solidly Republican county as four other Republicans whose districts include Greene County won election Tuesday unopposed. They were: incumbent Reps. Bishop Davidson (District 130) and Bill Owen (District 137), newcomer Darin Chappell (District 137) and Curtis Trent, who moved up from his House seat to take Senate District 20.

Statewide, Democrats made small gains, but not nearly enough to break the supermajority status of Republicans in the General Assembly.

In addition to Hein, Democratic candidates Adrian Plank (District 47), Kemp Strickler (District 134), Deb Lavender (District 98) and Jamie Johnson (District 12) turned their respective districts blue, as Democrats pulled away with 52 victories for the House. 

However, in House District 17 (Clay County), Republicans were able to pick up a seat by ousting Democratic incumbent Mark Ellebracht. 

Ultimately, Republicans triumphed in 111 House Districts, and retained all of their Senate seats that were up for election, including Hough in Springfield (District 30) and Trent.

“We lost one and we lost an incumbent,” Fogle said. “So we had good news and bad news yesterday. But what I think that means for us and what that means for our caucus is an increased ability to have our voices counted.”

In a purple city, Springfield Republicans share the same interests as their Democrat colleagues

Despite being in the supermajority, Stinnett appears prepared to work with her Springfield colleagues to address issues that matter to her constituents, who elected her by just over 400 votes.

“I’ve had relationships with Betsy and Crystal in the past, working through issues before I decided to run; issues specific to children, issues specific to health care — and so I think that there are many things that we deal with that aren’t necessarily partisan in nature,” Stinnett said. “We’re able to communicate with one another and do really great things for our community as a whole, so I look forward to working with all of them.”

Similarly to Hein, Stinnett credits her success to her messaging, specifically around health care. Stinnett, the founder of Theracare, a company that specializes in speech therapy services, and the vice president of therapy services for Arc of the Ozarks, has a lot of background in health care, which is one of Springfield’s largest industries.

“There are a lot of people that work in health care, there are a lot of people that interact with our health care organizations day in and day out,” she said. “And so knowing someone [who] could potentially go into a legislature that would have a strong knowledge base in those areas, I think appealed to a lot of people.”

Riley, meanwhile, who was reelected by the largest margin of any state House candidate in Springfield, was grateful for his own victory and that of his neighbor Stinnett, but conceded some recognition for the gains Democrats have made in the city.

Rep. Alex Riley (R), won reelection in House District 134. (Photo provided by Alex Riley)

“I do think Springfield is purple,” he said. “I think it’s been trending purple for a while, I don’t know if that’s anything super new. But I do think that the Democrats have done a good job of late recruiting strong candidates who have put in the work.”

Riley thinks a lot of the voters in this election made their choice based on their candidates’ views on “kitchen table issues,” notably including the economy and crime. 

The Democratic House leader looks to continue cause in her final term

Quade, the House Minority Leader, expanded on Riley’s comments about the issues that concerned voters.

“Voters are frustrated with the extremes going on in Jefferson City,” Quade said. “Whether it’s women’s bodily autonomy or the conversations and attacks on our public schools. We’ve heard a lot about child care access and affordability as well as health care and wages. All the things that Democrats have been fighting for, we’re going to continue to push for those things.”

Jack McGee

Jack McGee is the business and economic development reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen. He previously covered politics and elections for the Citizen. Before that, he worked at documentary film company Carbon Trace Productions and Missouri State University’s student-led newspaper, The Standard. He’s an MSU graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and a minor political science. Reach him at jmcgee@sgfcitizen.org or (417) 719-5129. More by Jack McGee