Lembke declares victory in 1st District Senate race; final tallies to be released this week

Barry ponders recount; Lembke says he ‘outworked’ Barry

Jim Lembke

Jim Lembke

By BURKE WASSON

While Republican Rep. Jim Lembke of Lemay has declared victory in the Nov. 4 election to the 1st District Missouri Senate seat, the final vote tallies in a race that some deemed too close to call were set to be released this week.

At press time, Lembke held a 114-vote lead over former Democratic Rep. Joan Barry of Oakville. Lembke had 44,069 votes while Barry had 43,955 votes. But with more than 200 provisional ballots left to be counted within the 1st Senate District, both will be watching for final results.

St. Louis County and St. Louis city officials were expected to review those provisional ballots for eligibility on Tuesday and Wednesday and make a final count later this week. If the count after those provisional ballots are studied still shows a slight difference, Barry said she would consider requesting a recount.

“With the small amount that’s dividing us, unless the provisional ballots really go the wrong way, I certainly think a recount is an option we should look at,” Barry said.

With the majority of those provisional ballots cast in the county — where Lembke has received 39,927 votes compared to Barry’s 36,193 votes — Lembke believes the unofficial results will hold in his favor.

“Even through the provisional or the recount if she asks for one, they very seldom move the vote 10, 12 votes one way or the other,” he said. “The majority of the provisional votes that will be accepted and countable votes will be in the county. Well, we won the county 53 (percent) to 47 (percent). So it only makes logical sense that those will most likely trend our way. So that’ll get us more votes in the universe. And then the city is 10 percent of the district. And we don’t believe that the universe for the city provisionals will be that high.”

Unofficial city election returns saw 7,762 votes for Barry and 4,142 votes for Lembke.

Lembke is confident that the final vote tallies will show his election to a four-year term in the Senate, where he said his agenda will reflect that of his campaign.

“We’re going to be focusing on job creation and enhancing our economy here in Missouri,” Lembke said. “We’re going to be doing that through the expansion of the Quality Jobs Act. I’ve already set up meetings with officials at the airport. China is seriously looking at Lambert Field to be a freight hub to service 19 states in the Midwest. I’m going to be very active in that process. That’s going to create a lot of jobs into our region.”

Lembke added that he looks forward to working across party lines with Democratic Gov.-elect Jay Nixon.

“Based on his campaigning, the governor-elect Nixon said he’s interested in looking at property-tax reform,” Lembke said. “That’s a very important issue to our district here in the 1st. I look forward to working along with my colleagues in the Senate, but also with the new governor to make sure that we get some relief for property owners in St. Louis County.”

Lembke also pledged to continue to monitor government spending for efficiency.

“Just make sure that we are being efficient with the people’s money,” Lembke said. “That’s where I’ve spent a lot of my time on the budget committee and as appropriations chair just making sure we’re being good stewards of the people’s money and not wasting tax dollars so that we don’t have to go back to the taxpayers and ask them for more of what’s theirs.”

With most unofficial votes counted in his favor, Lembke said he credits his success over Barry to his hard work during the campaign in a district known for its independence.

“It is a swing district,” Lembke said. “It’s a district that depends on, I believe, whether you communicate what your vision is for the state and state government to those you’re hoping to serve. And you communicate that and find out what’s important to those voters. That’s why I knocked on 17,000 doors … Any given election, a district like this is going to swing one way or the other. Now in the case of this election, I think we both ran a good campaign.

“I think, quite frankly, that I outworked my opponent and I think that was the difference in the margin. I think that in any other climate … I probably would have won by a much larger margin based on how hard we worked. But we overcame a very bad night when you look at what happened to the statewides, when you look at what happened to other people in the county and in this district. For instance, my (85th District) seat was lost by 9 points (to Democratic Rep.-elect Vicki Lorenz Englund). So I would say without the perfect storm that we were really up against — a bad economy, unpopular president, unpopular war, a governor’s race that never really got engaged as far as our (Republican) candidate (U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof) — think that through. I really overcame all of that and won.

“So you add all those things up, people were writing me off big time and said ‘There’s no way he’s going to win it.’ And the only difference was we had a great team. We had great supporters. And I really believe the people appreciated me knocking on their front door and asking for their vote and asking what was important to them in this race for Senate. I visited a lot of neighborhoods across the 1st Senatorial that I’d never been in before. And it was just overall a great experience,” Lembke said.

Barry also gave much credit to her campaign workers and thanked them for their efforts.

“I just really want to thank everybody that has worked so hard on the campaign,” Barry said. “I think we had a very good campaign staff and the volunteers were phenomenal the way they came in daily and helped and canvassed with me. It was just a very united effort.”

As for the 114-vote margin and the final tallies yet to be released, Barry said she would hope for the best and would be honored to serve in the Senate.

“We have to just go forward and see what the results bring in the next week or two and go from there,” Barry said. “I certainly wanted to be a part of the Senate to be able to bring real change as far as the economy and health care and education. That’s something that I really wanted and will be sorry if I’m not a part of.”

Lembke said he is “humbled” for the opportunity to serve in the Senate and again attributed that to his aggressive campaign.

“Our ground game, I believe, is what put us over the top,” Lembke said. “I just don’t think you could make an argument against that. It was similar to the difference between (Democratic President-elect Barack) Obama’s ground game and (Republican candidate John) McCain’s ground game.

“Obama was just much better organized and had more supporters on the ground out there doing the things you need to do to win a campaign. And in the long run, that’s what made the difference. I think that’s the same way here … I’m humbled by that and I thank them. I can’t wait and I’m excited about getting up to Jefferson City and starting to serve the people of the 1st Senatorial.”