JEFFERSON CITY - A political campaign in northern Missouri that could decide control of the state's Senate has racked up a price tag of more than $600,000.
Inundating voters with attack ads, Rep. Robert Clayton, D-Hannibal, and Republican John Cauthorn, president of the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, have each raised and spent more than $300,000, according to campaign finance disclosure reports.
The candidates are running for the Jan. 24 special election for the 18th district seat held by Sen. Joe Maxwell, D-Mexico, who resigned to become lieutenant governor.
The two candidates received the majority of their money from the respective state party committees. Of the $367,066 Cauthorn has raised, $245,000 came from the Republican State Committee, while $185,000 out of $327,208 Clayton has received came from the the Missouri Democratic Committee.
Two other districts will hold special elections Wednesday, Jan. 24 -- the Democratic-leaning 4th district in St. Louis City and the Republican-leaning 12th district in the northwestern part of the state. Those two legislators vacated their seats for Congressional seats they won in November.
But the bid for the 18th district is viewed by both parties as their best chance to gain power in the Senate. If the three empty seats do not change parties in the special election, the Senate would face a 17-17 tie between the two parties.
With the three vacancies, Republicans now hold a one-seat advantage in the 34-member upper house, but have agreed to a power-sharing plan in which neither party controls the Senate.
Clayton spokesman Kim Baldwin agreed that the election will determine more than just who will be the district's senator.
"Whoever wins this seat will impact the balance of power in Jefferson City," Baldwin said.
As of Jan. 16, Clayton spent $340,455 while Cauthorn used $331,564, devoting much of their funds to television spots defending their record and attacking the record of the opponent.
"We knew both parties were going to throw money into this," Cauthorn campaign manager Patrick Werner said. "Both parties want it back. Both parties want the majority."
"This was the battleground," Werner added.