Akin wins Sen. primary, Clay takes 1st District

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Republicans elevated U.S. Rep. Todd Akin to a Senate showdown against incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill on Tuesday, and also endorsed a state constitutional amendment that permits public prayer and allow students to avoid assignments which violate their religious beliefs.

Republicans chose Dave Spence to take on incumbent Gov. Jay Nixon in November. Spence turned back a field of several Republicans after waging a campaign that highlighted his private-sector experience.

Voters also nominated several sitting members of Congress seeking two-year return trips to Washington, though a familiar political name in the state — Russ Carnahan — was not among the winners.

The statewide ballot measure on prayer followed similar debates by Missouri lawmakers in recent years. The current measure easily cleared the state House and the Senate last year, and voters overwhelmingly gave their blessing.

In the hotly contested GOP primary for U.S. Senate, Akin toppled Sarah Steelman and John Brunner for the right to face McCaskill.

Among the numerous primaries for statewide and congressional seats, Ed Martin won the Republican primary for attorney general and Susan Montee won the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.

Eight members of Congress from Missouri were also on Tuesday’s ballot seeking return trips to Washington. Because of new congressional district boundaries, one of those incumbents is losing his seat.

St. Louis’ William Lacy Clay Jr. defeated Carnahan for the Democratic nomination in Missouri’s 1st District. The pair spent eight years as congressional colleagues before Carnahan’s 3rd District was eliminated by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature after the 2010 Census.

Former state Republican Party Chairwoman Ann Wagner won the primary to replace Akin in the Republican-leaning 2nd District.

Two congressional incumbents — Republican Blaine Luetkemeyer in the 3rd District and Democrat Emanuel Cleaver in the 5th District — were unopposed, while Republican incumbents Vicky Hartzler, Sam Graves and JoAnn Emerson won their party primaries.

Registered voters were able to choose a ballot for any political party or ask for a ballot that merely poses questions about issues, such as the prayer amendment

Turnout early Tuesday was reportedly light in Kansas City, where Shawn Kieffer, Republican director of elections for the Kansas City Election Board, had expected a turnout of about 15 percent. Based on early numbers, he thought the final figure would be closer to 10 percent or 12 percent of the 215,000 registered voters in his jurisdiction.

Gary Stoff, Republican director for the St. Louis Board of Elections, said polling places he visited had a steady, but not heavy, flow of activity. He says city election officials were expecting turnout near the expected 25 percent — or more — statewide because of the number of hotly contested races in St. Louis.

Morning turnout was light both at Chesterfield City Hall, a wealthy suburb in the 2nd Congressional District, and at the Missouri School for the Blind in a working-class neighborhood of St. Louis located in the 1st Congressional District.

Bob Nicolay, 65, said he voted for Carnahan largely because he has always lived in Carnahan’s old district and has been impressed with Carnahan’s concern for the conditions of the Veteran’s Hospital in St. Louis.

Martin J. McNally, 68, of St. Louis, is retired on a military pension and runs a business that markets publications. He voted for Clay because “he’s for the working men and women of this district.”

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