Jefferson: A County to Watch

6 Nov

As you might assume, I will be closely watching tonight’s election returns from here in JeffCo. But I’m not the only one. A STL Beacon article says we might be Missouri’s bellwether. Senator Claire McCaskill certainly thinks so, as evidenced by her six stops here in the past two months:

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill acknowledges which county’s election returns she will seek out first on Nov. 6: Jefferson County.

“If we do well in Jefferson County, we’ll have a good night,” said McCaskill, a Democrat, in a recent interview as she visited with supporters in Festus.

Challenger Todd Akin has been here three times since the primary.

“Jefferson County is in the top 10 of the most important counties to win,” said Pete Williams, Akin’s eastern Missouri field director.

Why is JeffCo so crucial?

Dave Robertson, a political science professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, agrees that Jefferson County has special political status.  He ties it, in part, to its population, which Robertson calls, “an odd combination because it has a rural component and an urban component.”

“It has a mixture of a strong labor presence and social conservatives,” Robertson adds.

The article notes that, since 2000, JeffCo has selected the victor in US Senate races every election but 2002. It also notes the Jay Nixon factor, Governor Nixon, who comes from the county, remains popular here. Finally, the story touches on an important question: was the county’s turn to the right in 2010 an anomaly, or the signal of a long-term shift in local politics? We may find out today.

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