David Tyson Smith puts up signs

David Tyson Smith puts up signs March 6 at Vandiver West in Columbia. Smith is Boone County’s first Black representative.

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Boone County has officially elected its first Black representative.

David Tyson Smith, a local attorney and Columbia native, beat Libertarian Glenn Nielsen 75% to 24%, with all precincts reporting.

Smith will replace Kip Kendrick. Kendrick served the 45th District from 2015-2021, resigning in January to serve as chief of staff for Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City.

Following Kendrick’s resignation, Gov. Mike Parson called for a special April 6 election to fill the vacant seat.

Smith, the anticipated victor, campaigned on a platform surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and criminal justice reform.

In a previous interview with the Missourian, Smith said he also plans to focus on educational funding and access, as well as health care.

In a press release sent out on election night, Smith spoke of his plans to tackle voter suppression while in office.

“During the campaign, I often spoke of the hope I wanted to restore to voters,” Smith said. “The hope (is) that with this election, we can begin to turn the tide against voter suppression and other punitive bills in the state legislature — indeed, that we can begin to break the super majority rule that has become a wall of unrestrained power in Jefferson City.”

As a Democrat, Smith will be part of a superminority in the House. Republicans hold the supermajority.

In a previous interview, Smith said he is nonetheless excited for the opportunity to enact change.

“I think it’s gonna be interesting because it could shift the balance of power in Jefferson City, too, because a lot of the people of color in the legislative Black Caucus come out of St. Louis and Kansas City,” Smith said. “So to have someone from Columbia, I think it’d be good.”

Smith said in a previous interview that the Columbia community inspires him to put his all into his work each day, despite various hardships.

“When you realize that kind of, outside this bubble you’re surrounded in, it’s actually affecting people,” Smith said, “that motivates me, right? So, that’s what it’s all about.”

Smith thanked Nielsen for his participation in the election.

“I also want to acknowledge Glenn Nielsen for running a respectful campaign,” Smith said. “I appreciate his willingness to step up and engage in our democratic process.”

If elected, Nielsen would have been the first non-Democrat to represent Boone County since the last redistricting in 2012.

Nielsen moved to Missouri from Durand, Illinois, in 1983. He worked for the Callaway nuclear power plant and later moved to software and computer programming.

During his time working for the University of Missouri, Nielsen was introduced to the Libertarian Party, which he characterizes by the “non-aggression principle.”

Nielsen told the Missourian he would prioritize criminal justice reform, citing the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as the protests that took place in 2020.

“(It) has led to a growing momentum to actually try to achieve some real criminal justice reform, and that’s an issue that I’m very passionate about. ... I felt it was time that there was a libertarian voice on some of these issues,” Nielson said.

Smith said he is optimistic about the future of Missouri.

“I want this victory to inspire renewed engagement in the political process,” Smith said. “Together, we have a lot of work to do, but it’s clear that we can believe again.”

This article originally ran on columbiamissourian.com.

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