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Columbia Missourian

Incumbents reign in Missouri's U.S. House elections

By ALAN SCHER ZAGIER/The Associated Press
November 6, 2012 | 9:35 p.m. CST

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Six of the seven incumbents in Missouri's U.S. House delegation have won re-election.

Veteran officeholders Emanuel Cleaver, Sam Graves, Billy Long, Blaine Luetkemeyer and Jo Ann Emerson each defeated challengers with less name recognition and far fewer campaign resources. And first-term GOP Rep. Vicky Hartzler held off challenger Teresa Hensley, the Cass County prosecutor, in the state's most closely watched contest for the U.S. House of Representatives.

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In Kansas City, former mayor and incumbent Democrat Cleaver defeated Republican Jacob Turk for the fourth consecutive time in Missouri's 5th District. Cleaver is chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Graves, a Tarkio Republican, beat Democrat Kyle Yarber of Gladstone in northwest Missouri's 6th District. Luetkemeyer won a third term in a revamped 3rd District over Democratic business owner Eric C. Mayer.

Long, a first-term representative from Springfield, topped Democrat Jim Evans of Republic and Libertarian Kevin Craig of Powersite in the 7th District.

And in southeast Missouri, Emerson of Cape Girardeau, the state's longest-serving member of Congress, won a ninth term with a victory over Poplar Bluff chiropractor Jack Rushin in the 8th Congressional District.

Hartzler is a Harrisonville Republican who rode the tea party's anti-incumbent wave to a 2010 upset win over longtime Democratic Rep. Ike Skelton. Hensley, from Raymore, had hoped to follow in the steps of Chris Koster, Claire McCaskill and Kenny Hulshof — all ex-prosecutors who moved on to higher offices in Washington or Jefferson City.

As a House freshman in a redrawn district, Hartzler was considered the most vulnerable of the seven congressional incumbents.

While most of her district is solidly Republican, Hensley and her supporters hoped that the addition of Columbia after the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional boundaries would give the Democrat an advantage among the college town's largely liberal voting base.

Hensley started out strong, raising more money than Hartzler in the first few months while attracting outside attention from inside the Beltway. But that fundraising advantage soon evaporated as the expected support from national Democratic campaign committees largely didn't materialize.

During her campaign, Hensley said she wanted to raise taxes on the millionaires to help reduce the deficit and supports increased investment in wind energy. She held up several of Hartzler's votes or stances as evidence of the Republican's obstructionist approach, including a failure by Congress to renew the federal farm bill.

Hartzler, a former teacher and state lawmaker who helped lead the successful fight for a 2004 state ballot measure banning gay marriage, criticized Hensley as a "lifetime lawyer" and said her views are more in line with voters in the district. Like Skelton, Hartzler serves on the House Armed Services Committee, which is a critical post in a district that includes Whiteman Air Force Base and Ft. Leonard Wood.

In the race for Missouri's only open U.S. House seat this year, former state and national GOP leader Ann Wagner hopes to claim the open 2nd Congressional District seat in suburban St. Louis created by Rep. Todd Akin's decision to run for U.S. Senate. The one-time U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg and co-chair of the Republican National Committee under former President George W. Bush faces Valley Park Democrat Glenn Koenen.

Both Wagner and Koenen won multi-candidate party primaries in August to advance.

In the city of St. Louis, six-term Congressman Clay faces Republican challenger Robyn Hamlin for the second consecutive time in Missouri's 1st District. Clay had to fend off fellow Rep. Russ Carnahan in an August Democratic primary after the redrawing of the state's political boundaries matched the two incumbents, both sons of long-time state politicians. Carnahan had chosen to face Clay rather than seek the open seat in the 2nd District.