COLUMBIA — In a close race that ran counter to the outcome in Boone County, Republican Blaine Luetkemeyer of St. Elizabeth was elected to fill a vacant seat in Missouri's 9th District congressional race on Tuesday.
Luetkemeyer was elected to replace Republican Kenny Hulshof of Columbia, who lost a bid for governor. Luetkemeyer won 50 percent of the vote in the district, which covers parts or all of 25 counties. He defeated 25th District state Rep. Judy Baker, D-Columbia, who won 47.5 percent of the vote. In Boone County, however, Baker won 58 percent of the vote.
Libertarian candidate Tamara Millay of Greendale received 2.5 percent of the vote.
"Well, we're just honored to be chosen by the people," said Luetkemeyer, who watched election returns at the Stoney Creek Inn with many Republicans on Tuesday night. "It's very humbling to know that we've got the support of all the folks in the district. We're anxious to get to D.C. and start working on some problems that affect our folks in this district, in the state of Missouri, and in the nation as a whole.
"We're looking forward to the challenge."
Luetkemeyer's defeat of Baker will keep a Republican in the seat that Hulshof held for six terms after defeating 20-year incumbent Harold Volkmer, D-Hannibal, in 1996. Hulshof never faced a stiff challenge to re-election; he defeated Democrat Duane Burghard in 2006 with 61 percent of the vote, and won by margins of 31 percent and 40 percent in the previous two election cycles.
Luetkemeyer, who previously served two terms in the state House of Representatives, emphasized tax cuts as incentives for business growth and drilling for oil as key components of his economic plan.
“I pledge to provide a strong voice in Congress for the people of the 9th District by fighting against job-killing taxes and supporting job creation, affordable energy, secure borders and affordable and accessible health care,” he said. “I also am committed to taking our Missouri values to Washington to ensure that our interests are truly represented in Congress.”
Baker, who worked for 20 years as a health clinic administrator before being elected to the House in 2004, emphasized reducing health-care costs, creating jobs and investing in alternative energies. She gave an emotional speech to a group of supporters at the Tiger hotel early Wednesday morning.
"When I started this journey I said I thought this was not the time to be shy about what we stood for," Baker said. "I said it was not the time to back down from the serious challenges we faced then — and still do today. I said that if you wanted change you had to show up. Well tonight our race ends, but our time has just begun."
While Baker said she's unsure what the next step is for her, Luetkemeyer said he plans to stay close to his family.
"I think we'll probably just rent an apartment or something (in Washington)," he said. "We're not going to move there. My roots are here in Missouri, in the district. We need to stay in touch with the people; that's what the job's all about. We'll be there enough to do a good job in D.C., but I have a great family and a granddaughter and I want to come home and see those folks."
Luetkemeyer will begin serving his two-year term in January.