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« Martin To Face Chambliss | Blog Home Page | WA: Gregoire Up Big? »

MO Picks Hulshof, Nixon

Rep. Kenny Hulshof fended off State Treasurer Sarah Steelman to secure the GOP nomination for governor last night, setting up a battle with Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon in November.

Hulshof, the favorite of the party establishment, won 49% of the vote to Steelman's 45% with all the state's precincts reporting. Nixon easily outpaced his token opposition to capture 85% of the vote, setting up what is expected to be one of the few competitive governor's races this year.

While Nixon has essentially been running for governor for four years, incumbent Republican Matt Blunt's surprise decision to retire after just one term forced Hulshof and Steelman into a six-month sprint to yesterday's primary. Now, Nixon has a big warchest, with $2.9 million on hand a week before the primary, while Hulshof had to spend most of his money to get past Steelman.

Most public polls had shown Nixon leading both Republicans by wide margins, and above the critical 50% threshold. The latest available, conducted for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in early July, showed Nixon leading Hulshof 52%-35%.

In the battle to replace Hulshof in his northeast Missouri district, former state tourism chief Blaine Luetkemeyer won the Republican nomination over more conservative State Rep. Bob Onder by a 39%-31% margin. State Rep. Judy Baker, the more liberal candidate in the race from the district's population base in Columbia, beat former House Speaker Steve Gaw 42%-33% for the Democratic nomination, setting up what Republicans see as a race that favors their candidate.

Hulshof never had trouble holding the district, and President Bush won the district twice, most recently with 59%. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is poised to add Baker to the Red to Blue program for top challengers, meaning the Democrat will be able to count on fundraising and structural help.