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Blog Home Page --> House -- Missouri -- 09

MO 09: Luetkemeyer +5

Open seats are why the GOP is dying a death of a thousand cuts. But the party has a good shot to keep at least Missouri's vacant Ninth District, as the Republican incumbent runs for governor. A DailyKos/Research 2000 poll surveyed 400 likely voters between 10/20-22 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Ex-state Tourism Director Blaine Luetkemeyer and Democratic state Rep. Judy Baker were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Blaine Luetkemeyer (R)...47 / 9 / 80 / 44 / 50 / 44 (-2 from last, 9/18)
Judy Baker (D)...........42 / 84 / 8 / 42 / 40 / 44 (+2)

Republican Luetkemeyer has consistently led polls in the seat left open by GOP Rep. Kenny Hulshof, who is an underdog in his race for governor. Still, if Hulshof drives turnout in his own district, Luetkemeyer could be the beneficiary.

MO: Baker +2

As Republican Rep. Kenny Hulshof runs for governor, his northeastern Missouri Congressional District could give Democrats an opportunity to steal another seat. After competitive primaries on both sides, a poll conducted for Democratic nominee Judy Baker shows her leading by a narrow margin.

The poll, conducted by Momentum Analysis for Baker's campaign, surveyed 400 likely voters between 8/12-14 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Baker, a state representative, and former state tourism director Blaine Luetkemeyer, the Republican nominee, were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP)
Baker.................41 / 78 / 14
Luetkemeyer......39 / 12 / 66

Luetkemeyer's bitter primary, in which the Club for Growth spent considerable resources on his opponent's behalf, appears to have opened rifts that have yet to heal. The Democratic primary was less heated, though Baker beat out a number of well-known Democrats, including former House Speaker Steve Gaw.

Democrats are optimistic about their chances in the Ninth District, but it is expected to vote heavily for John McCain, giving Luetkemeyer a leg up. President Bush won the district by eighteen points in 2004, and Hulshof never had trouble carrying the seat.

Still, Hulshof's run for governor could turn out to be an impetus for ticket-splitting that might benefit Democrats; most public polls have showed Attorney General Jay Nixon easily leading Hulshof, who had his own bitter primary to deal with. If Hulshof's lead in his own district, which should be his best political base, is diminished by a Nixon rout, Democrat Baker could benefit.

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.

Parties Pick Next Hulshof

As Rep. Kenny Hulshof collects establishment support in his bid for governor, the rush to replace the six-term Republican in the northeastern Ninth District of Missouri comes to a head tomorrow when a crowded field that includes a shooting range owner, a former football player and more than a few Democratic hopes of stealing yet another Republican seat.

On the Republican side, former State Tourism director Blaine Luetkemeyer and State Rep. Bob Onder have found the most support and had widely outspent their opponents through the July 16 pre-primary filing deadline. Former Mizzou football standout Brock Olivo, who went on to play for the Detroit Lions, generated some buzz early, but he has yet to convert that to big support. And State Rep. Danielle Moore, who owns the shooting range, had yet to break the $100,000 barrier either, while both Luetkemeyer and Onder neared $500,000 raised.

The Club for Growth could be a big factor in the district. Luetkemeyer has been the target of about $100,000 in advertisements hitting him for his record on taxes and spending, expenditures that will help Onder and other candidates in the end. Both Onder and Luetkemeyer are running television spots in advance of the primary.

Democrats are pinning their hopes on either State Rep Judy Baker or former House Speaker Steve Gaw. Baker has raised more than $405,000 through the pre-primary period, while Gaw had raised about half that amount. Former State Senator Ken Jacob, who ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2004, and Marion County Commissioner Lyndon Bode each had raised about $100,000.

Come November, the primary winners will face off in a district that reaches from the Iowa and Illinois borders in the north and east to the University of Missouri, in Columbia, and the St. Louis outskirts. John McCain is likely to win the district by a margin similar to that of President Bush, who took eighteen-point and thirteen-point majorities in 2004 and 2000.

Still, Democrats are excited by their chances, especially with Barack Obama's commitment to the state and the possibility of a blowout at the gubernatorial level; state Attorney General Jay Nixon leads both Hulshof and Treasurer Sarah Steelman, who also face off tomorrow in the gubernatorial primary, by a wide margin. To show their enthusiasm, the DCCC added the seat to the Red to Blue program, even before a nominee is chosen.

It would be a tremendously uphill fight, but with enough of a wind and a moderate candidate, Democrats hold out hopes of stealing the seat.

Well, If THAT Qualifies...

What, exactly, qualifies someone to be a member of Congress? A clear plurality of incumbent members are lawyers, though there are doctors, farmers, law enforcement officers, former CIA and FBI agents and an assortment of others, ordinary and bizarre (Tom DeLay was an exterminator). If it's education, the vast majority of members have college degrees, and the ones who don't are pretty smart anyway.

Former Mizzou football star Brock Olivo set the bar a little lower. "Not only was I football player, but I also was in social studies class, and I have a passion for how this country works," he told the AP. Olivo, who played for the Detroit Lions for four years before working for a foundation in Washington, is one of three top Republicans running to replace Rep. Kenny Hulshof, who is running for governor.

Olivo would not be the first former football player in Congress. Seattle Seahawk great Steve Largent served until 2002, when he resigned to make an unsuccessful bid for governor of his native state of Oklahoma. Democrat Heath Shuler, best known in Washington for throwing more than twice as many interceptions than he did touchdowns, most of which came with the Redskins, is now a member of Congress. Other sports stars have made it to Washington in recent years, including Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, the Kentucky Senator, and track star Jim Ryun, who lost to Democratic Rep. Nancy Boyda last year.

As over-qualified as Olivo might be, having aced social studies, he still has to face State Reps. Danie Moore and Bob Onder in Missouri's August 5 primary. The winner will face either State Rep. Judy Baker, House Speaker Steve Gaw or Marion County Commissioner Lyndon Bode, all of whom are running on the Democratic side.

The district, which had elected a Democrat for generations before Hulshof's 1996 victory, is mostly rural, comprising the northeastern corner of the state. President Bush won 55% there in 2000 and 59% in 2004, but with the right candidate, Democrats think they might actually be able to steal Hulshof's seat, even as he runs for governor and will look to run up big margins in his home area.

MO Dominoes Are Dem Opportunities

Missouri Governor Matt Blunt's decision to retire at the end of this term could produce a domino effect that helps a former Democratic rival win a seat in Congress. Blunt's exit prompted Republican Rep. Kenny Hulshof to enter the race for governor this week, leaving his 9th District seat for a chance at the top post in Jefferson City.

Hulshof would have been difficult to defeat, as his district gave President Bush 59% of the vote in 2004. But the DCCC had already been spending money on radio ads in the district before Hulshof announced his retirement, and they're likely to continue targeting the open seat.

Prior to Hulshof's decision, the leading Democratic challenger was State Rep. Judy Baker, whose lack of name recognition and financial support may have been too much to overcome against the 6-term incumbent. But the open seat produced much excitement among Democrats, and caused many candidates more well-known than Baker to consider a run.

One such candidate is former State House Speaker Steve Gaw, whom the Columbia Tribune reports is likely to enter the race. Gaw was first elected to the Legislature in 1992, representing all of Randolph County and parts of three others. He was elected Speaker in 1996 after just four years in the State House. In 2000, he ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state, losing 51%-45% to Matt Blunt, who used that post as a springboard to the governorship. Gaw has not run for office since his loss to Blunt, and now Blunt's exit could be the impetus of his return.

Other potential Democratic challengers include former Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell, who was elected to the 2nd highest post in the state in 2000. The Tribune reported, however, that Maxwell is unlikely to run. Wes Shoemyer, a socially conservative, first-term state senator, is still considering a race.

Potential Republican successors to Hulshof include Greg Steinhoff, the director of the Department of Economic Development; State Rep. Bob Onder; State Rep. Joe Smith; and Jason Van Eaton, a former aide to Sen. Kit Bond, the Tribune reports.

The expansive 9th District includes all of 22 counties, as well as the university city of Columbia, the outskirts of the St. Louis metropolitan area, and the entire northeastern section of the state. Democrats were elected here for 34 years before Hulshof first won in 1996. The mix of urban, suburban and rural voters makes this a difficult race for any candidate to win, but will likely remain on national Democrats' target list.

-- Kyle Trygstad