UPDATE 11:20 p.m.: Missouri voters have chosen incumbent Caleb Rowden as the District 19 State Senate seat.
Missouri State Senate incumbent Caleb Rowden told us it was “a load off” now that the election is over and the Associated Press called his win for the District 19 seat. @KOMUnews pic.twitter.com/BJ1F8nh4HE— Avery Everett (@AveryEverettTV) November 4, 2020
With 100% of precincts reporting, Rowden pulled away with 51% of the vote, or 50,518 votes. Baker had 48% of the vote, or 47,310 votes.
Rowden attended the Boone County Republican watch party on Tuesday night. He thanked all his supporters for their hard work this election season.
"We worked as hard as we know how to work the last four years and my promise to y'all and my promise to anybody is that we're going to work just as hard over the next four years," Rowden said.
For most of Tuesday night, the race for the District 19 seat was close between Rowden and Baker. Rowden said he thinks his campaign efforts got him the majority vote.
"The messaging had to be very focused and we talked about really what I could do for the people of Missouri that my opponent couldn't do," he said. "I guess it penetrated with enough people."
As for the future, Rowden said he will focus on the state's COVID-19 response and education throughout District 19.
"Obviously COVID is a different variable than we've had in years past, so I think figuring out how we get beyond that and how we make sure the economy is moving in the right direction," Rowden said. "For me it's continuing to stick up for K-12 kids, stick up for Mizzou and find ways to get our critical infrastructure taken care of."
Baker did not speak to KOMU 8 News after the Associated Press called the race.
BOONE AND COOPER COUNTY - Republican incumbent and state Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden is looking to secure another four years in the Missouri State Senate. But, Democratic challenger Judy Baker is vying for the District 19 seat as well.
The competitive race has picked up a lot of money and attention. In 2016, Rowden won the State Senate seat by only 2,156 votes, according to the Missouri Secretary of State.
Caleb Rowden was first elected to the state Senate in 2016 after serving two terms in the Missouri House of Representatives. Before being elected to state office, Rowden was a touring Christian singer. He also currently owns a Columbia based media and marketing company.
In 2018, Rowden became the Senate Majority Leader. His position as the majority leader is a crucial part of his campaign.
“I think that again the consequence for having someone in the majority party, having someone as the Senate Majority Leader, which is one of the most influential if not the most influential position in Jefferson City, why, having that person, representing you and your interests is incredibly important,” Rowden said. “It can't be downplayed in, in every aspect of importance and validity for this community, Boone and Cooper county.”
Rowden has also touted his experience and record during his reelection campaign.
“Those results matter, and they really do mean something you know at the surface level, but also at the other levels of what the economic impact means for job creation and jobs being sustained in this area,” Rowden said.
Rowden told KOMU 8 News that he also helped create a criminal justice reform, implementation of 5G, and money for the Next Gen Precision Health Institute, all while in the Senate.
During this election cycle, Rowden has raised a total of $919,881.82, which is more than double the money Baker has raised. A lot of money he has raised has come from PACs or committees.
On the latest campaign finance report from eight days before the election, 41 of Rowden’s 64 donations came from committees.
Rowden said it takes a lot of money to win competitive races, and he uses it to bring awareness to his campaign,
“We've been fortunate to have the resources that we think to get the message out to people and bring a political story through the roof,” Rowden said.
On his campaign website, Rowden emphasizes the need for low taxes, keeping Missouri's budget balanced, improving K-12 education and bringing resources to the University of Missouri.
If reelected for another four years, Rowden said the response to the pandemic would continue to be a priority.
"The response to COVID is going to be in the forefront of the 2021 session,” Rowden said. “I think the response is really important economically and otherwise.”
Rowden has not laid out any specific plans for a COVID-19 recovery plan.
He also said he hopes to be reelected as Senate Majority leader so he can continue to fight for the interests of the community and MU. He said his record as a state Senator is what makes his campaign strong.
“I can point to that record, and say that it's what I did, and I'm going to continue to do hopefully in the next four years."
On Election Day, Rowden will vote and attend the Boone County Republican Watch Party at Stoney Creek Inn.
Judy Baker is running against Rowden. Born and raised in Columbia, Baker said her campaign is built on her life’s service to mid-Missouri in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.
“I'm real,” Baker said. “I want voters to know I'm real, and I've been in communities and working for the good of communities for a long time. And I think I've built that trust. And I will bring people together. I will build bridges and bring people together.”
In 2004, Columbia voters elected Baker to represent Columbia in the Missouri House of Representatives District 25 seat. While in office, Baker served as the ranking member of the budget, health care and education committees. She also founded the American Dream and the Health Information Technology caucuses.
She was appointed in 2009 as the Director of the Midwest Region for the United States Department of Health and Human Services. During her time as the director, she managed the federal response to the Swine Flu pandemic and the Joplin tornado.
Baker said her experience stands out because her career wasn’t limited to just politics.
“I have the schooling, I have the experience and I have the implementation expertise that uniquely prepares me for being in the Senate and doing the things we need to do, policy wise,” Baker said.
The Missouri Ethics Commission reported on Oct. 26 that the Baker campaign raised $441,711 in total funds. Baker reported that while she has less than half of the total funds raised than Rowden, her funds came from over 2,000 individual donors.
“We've got teams all mobilized all over the all over the city and the county and out in Cooper County,” Baker said. “It's been just a wonderful time. It is kind of sad it's coming to a close, but I'm ready to be Senator.”
In her campaign, Baker prioritizes issues like the economy and health care, especially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Baker said she’s listening to what her constituents are asking for and hopes to apply that if elected.
“They care about the pandemic,” Baker said. “They care about the fact that we have record hospitalizations, and they're worried.”
Baker wants accessible healthcare for Missouri residents. That includes access to telemedicine, healthcare workforce training, Medicaid expansion and Title IX protections.
“I'm not going to say that what we have now works perfectly, but we have got to address the high cost of healthcare, raise the quality and bring down the cost,” Baker said. “At the same time, that has been my entire career, that's what I do.”
As for a COVID-19 recovery plan, Baker supports a five pillar system:
- Ensuring access to healthcare and COVID-19 treatments
- Helping families maintain stability
- Reviving the economy
- Protecting our most vulnerable community members
- Preserving democracy.
When looking at the economy, Baker’s takes issue with unfair taxes and would look to raise the minimum wage. She said she’s also listening to voters about the economy.
“They're worried about the economy,” Baker said. “And when I'm Senator, I want to make sure that when we have an economic recovery. And as it comes on board that we have an economic recovery that works for working people and not just corporate interests.”
Baker said her campaign is built on listening and experience. She hopes voters know where her passions lie.
“I've been in the public and the private and the nonprofit world, and he cannot match that experience,” Baker said.
On Election Day, Baker plans to vote and will attend the local Democratic watch party.
KOMU 8 News will continue to update this story on the Senate District 19 race throughout Election Day.