In a close race, challenger Locke Thompson defeated incumbent Mark Richardson in Tuesday's Republican primary for Cole County prosecuting attorney.
The unofficial totals show Thompson with 7,440 votes (51.62 percent) and Richardson with 6,972 votes (48.38 percent).
Richardson has held the position for 12 years.
"It has been an honor for me to serve as Cole County prosecutor," Richardson said Tuesday night in an emailed statement to the News Tribune.
He will remain in the office until January, when a new prosecutor will be sworn in.
"At the end of day, it came down to knocking on people's doors and meeting people," Thompson said. "Folks in Cole County were happy to see that kind of effort, and I'm ready to go back at it."
Thompson worked as an assistant prosecutor in Jasper County before returning to Jefferson City to work in the special prosecutions unit of the Missouri Attorney General's Office. He left that position to campaign for Cole County prosecuting attorney. From the beginning of his campaign, Thompson said the top issue was the crisis the county and the rest of the country faces concerning opioids.
"It caught a lot of attention, and the public understands that what we've been doing the past 50 to 60 years to address this issue isn't working," Thompson said. "I think that message was well received and crucial to my winning this race."
Richardson began his law career in 1984 at the Missouri Attorney General's Office, was an assistant Cole County prosecutor from 1985-92, was in private practice for more than a decade and has been a municipal judge. During the 2018 primary campaign, Richardson said his years of experience prosecuting cases set him apart from Thompson.
Thompson will face Democratic candidate Deirdre Hirner in the Nov. 6 general election. Hirner ran unopposed in Tuesday's primary.
"She knows her way around the political scene, so I have to run harder than I did before," Thompson said.