COLUMBIA - Republican Blaine Luetkemeyer and Democrat Judy Baker will face off in the November race to replace Kenny Hulshof as the 9th District representative to the U.S. Congress.
Luetkemeyer garnered 21,542 Republican votes, or 39.7 percent of the total; Baker won 22,495, or 44.1 percent of Democratic votes, setting up a Nov. 4 general election contest that will also include Libertarian Tamara Millay, who pulled 250 votes.
Among the other Republican candidates, State Rep. Bob Onder of Lake St. Louis collected 29 percent of the vote, State Rep. Danie Moore of Fulton 19.5 percent, Brock Olivo of Columbia 10.1 percent and Dan Bishir of St. Peters 1.6 percent.
Democrat Steve Gaw of Moberly was almost neck and neck with Baker, of Columbia, for most of the race, but ended with 31.1 percent of the vote. Lyndon Bode of Palmyra followed with 12.9 percent, and Ken Jacob of Columbia ended with 11.9 percent.
Luetkemeyer focused his campaign on the conservative values of the 9th District, especially his views on abortion and lowering taxes. He was the only Republican endorsed by Missouri Right to Life, something he said helped him in the race. Luetkemeyer's campaign included several television advertisements, as well as The Blaine Banner, an advertisement styled as a newspaper. Luetkemeyer resigned from his position as director of the Missouri Division of Tourism in March to focus on his campaign full time. He said he'll continue to do so through November.
Luetkemeyer said the win is a "reward" for all the effort he and his workers put into the campaign.
"We ran a very effective campaign," he said Tuesday night at an election party, surrounded by family and other supporters.
Luetkemeyer added that he did a good job of promoting his agricultural background.
"The people of the 9th Congressional District have spoken," he said.
Baker, the incumbent 25th District state representative, was the first Democrat to file for the 9th District primary, entering the race even before Hulshof announced he would step down to run for governor.
After other candidates joined the race, Baker went on the defensive as her campaign fielded criticism from Jacob and Gaw at forums and in campaign advertisements. Her plan to allow veterans to access health care outside Veterans Affairs facilities brought criticism from both Jacob and veterans organizations, but when a plan similar to hers passed the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs, the discussion cooled. Still, the race was hard fought, and heated up again when second-place finisher Gaw released an ad criticizing Baker's vote on a utility bill.
"I think that voters have said that that's not what they're interested in anymore," Baker said, referring to negative campaigning. "They're interested in a way to solve problems."
While national observers predicted Gaw would win because of his appeal to rural voters, Baker focused on unifying Democrats in the district.
"We're not going to divide people," she said.
Baker's nomination comes as the end of her second term as the 25th District representative to the Missouri House draws near. Before she was elected as a state legislator, she worked as a health-care administrator and founded her own health-care consulting firm, Cura Advantage. She holds a bachelor's degree in educational psychology from MU, a master's degree in divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a master's degree in health administration from MU.
Luetkemeyer owns a small livestock farm in his hometown of St. Elizabeth and said that background helps him understand the needs of rural 9th District voters. He said he considers family one of the most important things in his life. He also cited his experience as Missouri tourism director and a state representative as good preparation for serving in Congress.
In her campaign, Baker said her strategy was to work directly with voters.
"I think we went straight to the voters and had a lot of voter contact," she said. She plans to continue that in the months leading up to the general election. "When voters respond, keep doing the same."
As the Democratic nominee for the district, she'll receive nearly $1 million worth of advertising time from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Luetkemeyer said that in the primary, he had to distinguish himself from opponents who had backgrounds and stances similar to his. In the upcoming election, he'll contrast his conservative leadership with Baker's views.
Democrats Bode and Jacob won't need to search for a job now that their campaigns have ended. Bode is in the middle of his 14th year as Marion County presiding commissioner, and Jacob works as the general counsel to State Auditor Susan Montee. Gaw doesn't know yet what he'll do, said his campaign manager, Jeremiah Levine.
"He hasn't made any decisions at this point," Levine said. "I'm looking forward to having everybody pull together around Judy."
Of the Republicans, former MU football player Olivo said he will be back into politics soon, but in the meantime, he is going to try to start a family with his wife, Samuela.
Bishir said he might run for this or another federal seat again and at some point would like to finish college.
Moore, who had reached her limit on terms in the state House, said she will finish up her duties as state representative.
After that, she said, "I have grandchildren to visit."
Onder's press secretary, Jay Barnes, said that the campaign was disappointed, but "the world does not end when you don't win a political race." He said it was important to continue to keep the district in Republican hands and said Onder will continue out his term as state representative.