COLUMBIA, Missouri – Dozens of aspiring Republican candidates from Missouri are jumping at the chance to run in November for two rare open seats in the U.S. Congress.
U.S. Reps. Vicki Hartzler and Billy Long are running for Senate in Tuesday’s GOP primary, leaving open seats in Hartzler’s central 4th Congressional District and Long’s southwestern 7th Congressional District.
The Republican primary for Hartzler’s seat includes state Sen. Rick Brattin, rancher Kalena Bruce, former Kansas City news anchor Mark Alford, former Boone County Clerk Taylor Burks and former St. Louis Blues player Jim Campbell. Burks and Campbell were the top two fundraisers as of mid-July, though Campbell is largely self-funded and doesn’t spend money.
Among the Republicans seeking Long’s seat are state Sens. Eric Burlison and Mike Moon and former state Sen. Jay Wasson, along with Pastor Alex Bryant and Dr. Sam Alexander. Wasson leads the way in fundraising.
All but two of Missouri’s incumbents won their seats when the positions became vacant, a rarity in Missouri.
Democratic U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver has served the Kansas City area since 2005, and Republican Representative Sam Graves has represented northern Missouri since 2001. Both Cleaver and Graves won after incumbents chose not to seek re-election.
One reason is that there are no federal term limits. Incumbents also typically have recognition, financial leverage and the ability to claim credit for local programs and government funding, said political scientist Robin Kuhlman of the University of Central Missouri.
“That’s why we tend to see a surge in candidates during open seat elections,” she said. “Overall, open seat choices are the chance to enter the arena with a much more level playing field.”
A crowded field of GOP hopefuls is making Missouri’s GOP primary more competitive, said longtime GOP political consultant John Hancock.
Republicans hold nearly two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate, a traditional launching pad for political careers. They are barred from running for re-election after eight years of service, leaving candidates to pursue other political opportunities.
“Term limits are either imminent or looming, and opportunities for political progress are few and far between,” Hancock said.
He expects open congressional and statewide seats to continue to attract large groups of GOP candidates.
In the Republican-controlled 4th and 7th districts, Democrats face strong odds, Kuhlman said.
“Therefore, the candidates who successfully emerge from these two Republican primaries may very well end up being crowned despite the upcoming general election,” she said.
The dynamic encourages candidates to stake increasingly conservative positions in order to win primaries.
“I’m the most conservative legislator in Jeff City,” Burlison said during a July 20 debate.
Top issues among Republican candidates include abortion, immigration, American energy independence and gas prices, inflation and “the usual midterm battle against the president’s party and its apparatus,” Kuhlman said.
“All of these races are too close to call,” Hancock said. “Tuesday could be very late at night.”
Associated Press writer David A. Lieb contributed to this report from Jefferson City.
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Open seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are drawing a large field of Republicans from Missouri
Source link Open seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are drawing a large field of Republicans from Missouri