The 135th House District has a new representative.
Democrat Betsy Fogle defeated Republican Rep. Steve Helms in the east Springfield district by 76 votes, or 0.43% of the vote, officials confirmed after a hand recount of ballots Thursday.
The result makes Fogle, a public health worker, the only candidate to flip a seat in the General Assembly from one party to another this year.
It will also give Democrats two seats in Greene County’s 10-member statehouse delegation for the first time since 2013.
(House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, who represents north Springfield, holds the other seat.)
In an interview Thursday evening, Fogle thanked voters for their support and expressed appreciation for the efforts of her staff and volunteers throughout her campaign.
“I’m ecstatic,” she said. “I’m going to enjoy this evening and look forward to getting to work in Jefferson City in January.”
Helms, who was running for a third term, did not return a message seeking comment Thursday evening.
The verdict puts an end to one of the most closely watched legislative races in the state this year.
Democrats made the race a top target after Homegrown Foods owner Rob Bailey lost to Helms, an insurance broker, by fewer than 1,000 votes in 2018.
The House Republican Campaign Committee responded by spending more money opposing Fogle than any other Democratic candidate this cycle — more than $130,000 at last report.
Attack ads casting Fogle as a radical looking to pass a “job-killing tax hike” and kick people off their health care poured into the district in the final weeks leading up to Election Day.
Fogle denied those claims, continued campaigning on her support for Medicaid expansion and other progressive policies like new protections against discrimination for LGBTQ people, and ultimately came out on top.
She took a lead of 34 votes on election night and extended it to 80 votes when the last absentee and provisional ballots were counted.
Her narrow margin triggered an automatic recount, during which Helms picked up four more votes and Green Party candidate Vicke Kepling added two to her count. But it wasn’t enough to change the outcome.
Fogle will take office when the legislature convenes in early January.
Her swearing-in will give Democrats 49 seats in the House. Republicans will control the other 114, enough for a veto-proof supermajority.
Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader’s politics reporter. Got something he should know? Have a question? Call him at 417-403-8096 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.