Carnahan-Clay race tops Mo. slate for Congress

ALAN SCHER ZAGIER

Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Eight members of Congress from Missouri are asking voters on Tuesday for a two-year return trip to Washington. Thanks to new congressional district boundaries, at least one of those incumbents won’t prevail.

St. Louis Democrats Russ Carnahan and William Lacy Clay Jr. lead a three-candidate slate for their party’s nomination in Missouri’s 1st District. The pair spent eight years as congressional colleagues before Carnahan’s former 3rd District was eliminated by Missouri’s Republican-led legislature when the state lost a district after the 2010 Census.

Carnahan chose to face Clay rather than seek an open seat in the 2nd District created after Rep. Todd Akin decided to run in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Former state Republican Party Chairwoman Ann Wagner is the front-runner to replace Akin in the Republican-leaning district. She faces three challengers in the GOP primary.

Carnahan and Clay are united by more than just geography and political ideology. Both are scions of political dynasties: Carnahan’s grandfather served in Congress, his father was governor of Missouri before dying in a 2000 plane crash and his sister is Missouri’s secretary of state. Russ Carnahan won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004.

Clay is the namesake of his father, William Lacy Clay Sr., who represented St. Louis in the House for 32 years and was succeeded by his son after the 2000 election.

Those parallel paths have given way to a pugnacious — if not bitter — primary contest magnified by the election’s racial implications. Carnahan is white and Clay black, with the newly drawn district containing a majority of racial minorities. A Clay loss would leave St. Louis without a black member of Congress for the first time in more than four decades.

St. Louis University political scientist Ken Warren suggested that Clay, who worked behind-the-scenes to help preserve most of his former district, enters the primary with a distinct edge. Clay’s supporters include St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Gov. Jay Nixon.

“It’s commonplace in politics for people to vote for whom they’re most comfortable with, for people who come from their communities,” Warren said. “Race does play a huge role and it’s silly to ignore that.”

Two of the state’s eight congressional incumbents — 3rd District Republican Blaine Luetkemeyer and Democrat Emanuel Cleaver of the 5th District — will advance to November’s general election without primary opposition, while the four other members of Congress seeking re-election in Missouri are considered heavy favorites.

In the 4th District, first-term Rep. Vicky Hartzler faces Bernie Mowinski of Sunrise Beach in the Republican primary. The winner will face Cass County prosecutor Teresa Hensley, who is unchallenged in the Democratic primary.

In the 6th District, Rep. Sam Graves of Tarkio faces Bob Gough of Lee’s Summit and Christopher Ryan of Liberty. The northwest Missouri farmer is seeking his seventh term in Washington.

In the 7th District, first-term Rep. Billy Long of Springfield faces two challengers in the Republican primary: Mike Moon of Springfield and Tom Stilson of Ozark.

And in the 8th District, which encompasses the Missouri Bootheel and the southern Ozarks, eight-term incumbent Jo Ann Emerson faces Bob Parker of Raymondville, a Texas County rancher who also ran in the 2010 primary.

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Associated Press reporter David Lieb in Jefferson City contributed to this report.

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Alan Scher Zagier can be reached at http://twitter.com/azagier

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