COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Dozens of Republican hopefuls from Missouri are seizing the opportunity to run in November for two rarely available seats in the United States Congress.
US Representatives Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long are running for senate in Tuesday’s Republican primary, vacating Hartzler’s central 4th congressional district and Long’s southwestern 7th congressional district.
Republican primaries for the Hartzler seat include state Sen. Rick Brattin, rancher Kalena Bruce, former Kansas City area newscaster Mark Alford, former Boone County Clerk Taylor Burks and former St. Louis Blues player Jim Campbell. . Burks and Campbell were the top two fundraisers in mid-July, though Campbell is mostly self-funded and hasn’t been spending any money.
Republicans seeking Long’s seat include state senators Eric Burlison and Mike Moon and former state senator Jay Wasson, along with Pastor Alex Bryant and Dr. Sam Alexander. Wasson leads the fundraising.
All but two incumbent representatives from Missouri won their seats when seats opened, which is rare in Missouri.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver has worked in the Kansas City area since 2005, and Republican Rep. Sam Graves has represented northern Missouri since 2001. Both Cleaver and Graves won after the incumbents opted not to run. to re-election.
One reason is that there are no federal term limits. Incumbents also typically have name recognition, a financial edge and the ability to claim credit for local programs and government funding, said political scientist Robynn Kuhlmann of Central Missouri University.
“That’s why we tend to see a surge of candidates during open seat elections,” he said. “Generally speaking, open seat elections are the opportunity to enter the arena with a much more level playing field.”
An overloaded Republican pipeline of hopefuls is aggravating competition in Missouri’s Republican primary, said John Hancock, a longtime state Republican political consultant.
Republicans hold a nearly two-thirds majority in the state House and Senate, a traditional launching pad for political races. They cannot run for re-election after eight years of service, leaving candidates seeking other political opportunities.
“The term limit is imminent or approaching, and opportunities are few and far between for political advancement,” Hancock said.
He expects open seats in Congress and across the state to continue to draw large fields of Republican hopefuls.
In the Republican-controlled 4th and 7th districts, Democrats face great difficulties, Kuhlmann said.
“Because of this, the candidates who successfully emerge from these two Republican primaries could very well be crowned despite the general election coming up,” he said.
The dynamic encourages the candidates to rethink increasingly conservative positions to win the primaries.
“I am the most conservative legislator in Jeff City,” Burlison said during a debate on July 20.
Top issues among the Republican candidates include abortion, immigration, American energy independence and gasoline prices, inflation and “the usual midterm fight against the president’s party and his apparatus,” Kuhlmann said.
“These races are too close to call,” Hancock said. “It could be a very late Tuesday night.”
Associated Press writer David A. Lieb contributed to this report from Jefferson City.