By Gloria Lloyd
A special election last week in a Jefferson County-based Missouri House district that includes some of south county made national news when Democrats flipped a seat held by Republicans for eight years.
Democratic candidate Mike Revis, 27, defeated Republican David Linton by 108 votes, 51.5 percent to 48.4 percent, in the Feb. 6 special election for the 97th District, according to unofficial results. Once election results are certified next week, he is set to be sworn in and will begin serving in Jefferson City.
But he will have to almost immediately defend his new seat this November.
Revis’ victory caught the attention of national Democratic officials, who crowed about their win in a district that voted 61 percent to 33 percent for President Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Revis beat Linton by a higher margin in south county, 229 votes to 185, or 55 percent to 44 percent. It was the only race in St. Louis County that day.
The same night, Missouri Republicans kept three House seats in special elections.
Revis’ win has no impact on the Republican supermajority that controls the House and Senate in the Legislature. With Revis’ win, the Democrats will have 47 seats in the House to the Republicans’ 115.
But the seat was important enough to the GOP that Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, knocked on doors for Linton despite the freezing weather.
Revis replaces Rep. John McCaherty, R-Fenton, who resigned in September to focus on a campaign for Jefferson County executive that he ultimately decided not to pursue.
District residents have gone unrepresented in the months since. The House district is mostly in Jefferson County, but includes some areas of Concord in south county around Meramec Bottom Road and Hagemann Elementary.
The candidates, both Fenton residents, emphasized their pro-life backgrounds and support of the Second Amendment. Linton wanted to decrease the size of government and protect “life, liberty and property,” while Revis ran on a strong pro-labor platform and vowed to protect funding for public education.
GOP consultant Scott Dieckhaus attributed Linton’s loss to the scandals that enveloped Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican, in the weeks before the election.
“I am going to say what no one else is right now — we (Missouri Republicans) just lost a MO House seat because of @EricGreitens and his refusal to put our party over his ego,” Dieckhaus tweeted.
Linton had some name recognition since his father had served in the Legislature in the Wildwood area, along with $30,000 spent by Missouri Republicans for a cable buy.
But Revis credits his win to grassroots efforts on the ground by labor supporters rather than any growing sentiment against Greitens or Trump.
Going in, he knew it was an uphill battle and his voters might be outnumbered at the polls. But he was confident that the seat could be flipped with a good old-fashioned ground game.
Residents saw him as not just a Democrat, but as “Mike from Fenton and from District 97,” Revis said. “I was running as their neighbor who wanted to represent them.”
Knocking on doors in the district, he and the labor activists stumping for him found that the two issues people most wanted to talk about were right to work and education.
Residents worried about the effects of the right-to-work legislation that Greitens and the Legislature agreed on last year, along with the governor’s proposed funding cuts to higher education and any possible cuts to local public schools.
“I think people are concerned with the way things are going in our state right now,” Revis said. “When it’s 19 degrees and you’re standing on someone’s porch, they don’t necessarily want to have a long conversation. But they were concerned about what they see as attacks on labor and on the working class and on education.”
The head of the Democratic Victory Committee, Rep. Pete Merideth, D-south city, tweeted that Revis’ win signaled a turning of the tide in the state.
“These results will echo the halls of the Capitol and send a message to every Republican incumbent — if you keep putting special interests over the people of Missouri, we are coming for your seat,” Merideth said. “We were outspent 10 to 1, but our message and people power mattered more than dollars.”