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August 05, 2008

Luetkemeyer to face Baker in Missouri

Former Missouri tourism director Blaine Luetkemeyer (R) will be facing Democratic state Rep. Judy Baker in a closely-watched race to succeed Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.), who won the Republican primary for governor.

Democrats believe they have a shot at picking up the expansive, conservative-minded northeastern Missouri district with Hulshof out of office. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already reserved nearly $1 million in advertising time in preparation for the fall campaign.

Baker defeated former state House Speaker Steve Gaw, 42 to 33 percent, in a Democratic primary that largely divided along regional lines. Baker overwhelmingly carried her home base of Boone County, around the city of Columbia, and performed credibly in the more rural parts of the district.

Several Missouri Republican operatives privately said they were rooting for Baker to win the nomination because they believe she will have trouble winning over culturally conservative voters in a general election. Baker received an early high-profile endorsement from EMILY’s List, a group that endorses abortion rights-supporting female Democrats.

On the Republican side, Luetkemeyer defeated state Rep. Bob Onder, 39 to 31 percent, in a campaign that featured its share of negative attacks between the two frontrunners. Three other candidates split the remainder of the vote.

The Ninth District leans Republican, giving President Bush 59 percent of the vote in 2004. Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill lost the district by an eight-point margin in 2006 despite winning statewide.