State General Assembly
COLUMBIA — Nancy Copenhaver wants it all to go away. But the controversy surrounding the Democrat’s claim that she was offered money in March to leave the 47th District primary race against John Wright only seems to be picking up speed — and intrigue — the longer questions go unanswered.
“It was to pay for my ENTIRE campaign if I would run in a different district, ” Copenhaver said in the Heart Beat article, which reported that the capital letters were Copenhaver's emphasis.
Still, who represents Missouri's 25th District in the House of Representatives, is running to unseat state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, for his 19th District seat. Still flatly denies she made any such offer to Copenhaver.
But Copenhaver on Friday told the Missourian that the Heart Beat report is accurate. She clarified that she had assumed Still was offering Wright’s money, because Still had her own race to run and is not independently wealthy to afford such an offer.
That's a slightly different take than one put forward by Mitch Richards, Wright’s Republican opponent in the general election. He raised the topic at a candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters at Columbia Public Library on Thursday evening.
“Nancy told me that in fact it was not hers (Mary Still’s money). That it was his, Mr. Wright’s, ” Richards said in his opening remarks.
Richards and Wright were seated next to each other in a panel with four other House candidates. Richards looked straight ahead at the roughly 100 people in the audience while making his opening statement. Wright, head tilted and jaw set, kept his eyes on Richards.
Still acknowledged that she called Copenhaver in March to talk strategy and to suggest that the former state representative run this year in a different district. Copenhaver, a retired teacher from Moberly, was elected in 2000 to serve the 22nd House District. She lost the general election for the same seat in 2002 and 2004.
"I did have a conversation with (Copenhaver), and I think a lot of people did because we knew that John was going to be a very strong candidate, ” Still said. “She was not aware of some of the factors ... and he was going to have a lot of support from the education community."
Still said she talked with Copenhaver to inquire whether she or Wright could run in a different district.
“Nancy said no, she was not going to do that, " Still said. "I respected her decision. I never made an offer" to pay her off to move to a different district.
Copenhaver confirmed that she had been expecting support from the education community. While she felt she had it, she said Still’s assessment of Wright’s strong standing with that sector also proved accurate during the subsequent campaign.
Whether Copenhaver had conversations about switching districts with anyone other than Still remains unclear.
“I don’t remember that I did, ” Copenhaver said, adding that one reason she didn't want to run in a different district is simply because she lives in the 47th. She declined to discuss any other rationale.