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Columbia Missourian

Seven Missouri congressional seats not expected to change

By CHERYL WITTENAUER/The Associated Press
September 29, 2008 | 12:15 p.m. CDT

Incumbents holding seven of Missouri's nine U.S. House seats are likely to keep them after November's election, although all face at least one challenger.

Even if he wins in November, he could lose his party leadership position as House minority whip if Democrats broaden their majority this November.

"He's very optimistic," Blunt spokesman Dan Wadlington said. "He's hopeful that Republicans will do better than most of the pundits seem to believe."

Blunt, 58, was majority whip until Democrats took control of the House in 2007. He lost his bid for majority leader because of his ties to Tom DeLay, who stepped down because of a criminal indictment in Texas. But he still calls members together on key votes.

Although Blunt has drawn high ratings from conservative interest groups, his Democratic challenger, Richard Monroe, a retired federal prosecutor, said Blunt is vulnerable among disaffected voters who believe he has betrayed conservative values.

Monroe said his own polling indicates Blunt has lost favor with most Republicans.

"I would say I have a decent chance," said Monroe, who advocates a balanced budget, alternative energy, helping defaulted homeowners and ending tax cuts for the wealthy.

Libertarian Kevin Craig, of Powersite, and Constitution Party member Travis Maddox, of Fair Grove, also want to unseat Blunt.

Rep. Ike Skelton, dean of the state's congressional delegation, is seeking a 17th term in Missouri's 4th District, south and east of Kansas City.

The 76-year-old Democratic congressman from Lexington is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

A widower who recently announced he's getting married, Skelton has no plans to retire. "I'm too young," he said. "There's a lot of work to do."

And that's good news for Democrats who fear the seat in the fairly conservative-leaning district could be taken by Republicans once Skelton leaves.

Of tasks that lie ahead, Skelton said he is "deeply concerned" about the readiness of U.S. ground forces and would shift efforts to Afghanistan.

"We have a generation of rebuilding our credibility and respect around the world," he said.

Businessman Jeff Parnell, of Rogersville, who also writes and sings political satire, is the Republican challenger. Parnell, 47, said he knows the odds are against beating a "long-entrenched incumbent," but "anyone who has served that long, it's time for him to go home."

He favors making President Bush's tax cuts permanent, remaining in Iraq and increasing border security. He opposes abortion and embryonic stem cell research and strongly supports a national sales tax.

In the 1st District, incumbent Rep. William Lacy Clay, a Democrat, is being challenged by Libertarian Robb Cunningham, who wants to pursue reforms consistent with his party's principles.

Clay, 52, has held the seat that includes parts of St. Louis city and county since his election in 2000.

As chair of a House subcommittee that oversees the Census Bureau, Clay has worked to eliminate the undercount of minorities in the 2010 national census. After that national count, Missouri is almost certain to lose a congressional seat, and Clay's and Rep. Russ Carnahan's could be in jeopardy when district lines are redrawn.

"Everything will change," said James Endersby, MU associate professor of political science.

"Districts will be redrawn in a substantial way and one will disappear ... in and around St. Louis."

A Democrat and Libertarian are trying to unseat Republican Todd Akin in the 2nd District, a Republican stronghold that includes St. Louis County's western suburbs, part of St. Charles County and all of Lincoln County in eastern Missouri.

Akin, elected to Congress in 2000, gets high marks from conservative groups.

His Democratic challenger, Bill Haas, a 63-year-old lawyer and former St. Louis school board member, said he would outlaw mail-in rebates as his first order of business in Congress.

He said he would also like to take a leadership role in solving the problem of nursing homes evicting unruly elderly, a phenomenon recently identified in the Wall Street Journal.

Libertarian challenger, Tom Knapp, 41, of Greendale, a Gulf War veteran, calls himself "the left-most candidate in a right-leaning district."

In the 3rd District, which includes parts of St. Louis city and county, as well as all of Jefferson and Ste. Genevieve counties, incumbent Russ Carnahan has three challengers: Republican Chris Sander, Libertarian Kevin Babcock and Constitution Party candidate Cynthia Redburn, all from the St. Louis area.

Carnahan's recent work has focused on health care, the mortgage crisis and stabilizing the economy.

Sander, a businessman, wants to cut taxes, reduce government and strengthen the military. Redburn, a retired teacher and John Birch Society member, is a proponent of gun ownership and home schooling. Babcock does not have a Web site.

Endersby said the Libertarian and Constitution parties are running candidates to remain legitimate but have no chance of winning in Missouri.

In the 5th District, which includes Kansas City and portions of Cass and Jackson counties in western Missouri, Emanuel Cleaver rose from activist in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to Methodist pastor to Kansas City's City Council and mayor to two-term congressman.

Republican challenger, Jacob Turk, a Marine veteran and former small businessman from suburban Lee's Summit, has campaigned as the conservative alternative to Cleaver, whom he calls a career politician.

In southern Missouri's District 8, the state's most sparsely populated, six-term Republican incumbent Jo Ann Emerson, of Cape Girardeau, has three challengers.

Democrat Joe Allen, 31, of Forsyth, is campaigning to fight against poverty and work for jobs, clean energy, universal health care and international diplomacy.

Libertarian Branden McCullough, 27, is a doctoral candidate and teacher at Southern Illinois University, and Constitution Party candidate Richard Smith, of Mansfield, bills himself as a "common man for the common people."