Open seating in Missouri draws big crowds to contests

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COLUMBIA, Mo. — Dozens of aspiring Republican candidates from Missouri are jumping at the chance to run in November for two rarely open U.S. congressional seats.

Representatives Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long are running for the Senate in Tuesday’s GOP primary, leaving Hartzler’s Central 4th Congressional District and Long’s Southwest 7th Congressional District seats open.

The Republican primary for Hartzler’s seat includes State Senator Rick Brattin, cattle rancher Kalena Bruce, former Kansas City-area news anchor Mark Alford, former Boone County Clerk Taylor Burks and former St. Louis Blues player Jim Campbell. Burks and Campbell were the top two fundraisers as of mid-July, although Campbell was mostly self-funded and spent no money.

Republicans seeking Long’s seat include state senses Eric Burlison and Mike Moon and former state senator Jay Wasson, as well as pastor Alex Bryant and Dr. Sam Alexander. Wasson is a leader in fundraising.

All but two of the Missouri representatives won their seats when the positions became vacant, which is rare in Missouri.

Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver has served the Kansas City area since 2005, and GOP Rep. Sam Graves has represented northern Missouri since 2001. Cleaver and Graves won after the incumbents opted out of running for reelection.

One reason is that there is no federal term limit. Incumbents also typically have name recognition, financial benefit and the ability to claim credit for local programs and government funding, said Central Missouri University political scientist Robynn Kuhlmann.

“That’s why we tend to see a wave of candidates in open-seat elections,” she said. “Generally speaking, open-seat elections are the chance to enter the arena with a much fairer level playing field.”

An overloaded pipeline of aspiring GOP candidates is worsening the competitiveness of Missouri’s Republican primaries, longtime Republican political consultant John Hancock said.

Republicans hold a nearly two-thirds majority in the State House and Senate, a traditional launching pad for political careers. They are barred from standing for re-election after eight years of service, leaving candidates to pursue other political opportunities.

“Term limits are either imminent or imminent, and opportunities for political advancement are few,” Hancock said.

He expects open seats in Congress and statewide to continue to draw large fields of Republican hopefuls.

In the Republican-controlled 4th and 7th Districts, Democrats face strong challenges, Kuhlmann said.

“Because of this, the candidates who emerge successfully from these two Republican primaries could very well be crowned despite an impending general election,” she said.

The dynamic encourages candidates to take increasingly conservative positions to win the primary.

“I’m the most conservative lawmaker in Jeff City,” Burlison said during a July 20 debate.

Top issues among Republican candidates include abortion, immigration, U.S. energy independence and gas prices, inflation, and “the usual midterm fight against the president’s party and his apparatus,” he said. said Kuhlmann.

“These races are too close to be canceled,” Hancock said. “It could be a very late Tuesday night.”

Information for this article was provided by David A. Lieb of The Associated Press.

Jay Wasson, right, Republican candidate for Missouri’s 7th congressional district, speaks with voters during the Greene County Lincoln Day event at the Oasis Convention Center on Saturday, March 5, 2022. Voters in Missouri will choose from dozens of GOP candidates in a Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022 primary election that will likely determine Missouri’s next two U.S. Representatives. (Andrew Jansen/The Springfield News-Leader via AP)
Photo Taylor Burks speaks in July 2021 at Shakespeare’s Pizza–South in Columbia, Missouri at the launch of her campaign for the seat of Missouri’s 4th congressional district. That seat is held by Representative Vicky Hartzler, a candidate for the US Senate. (Charles Dunlap/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP)
Photo Eric Burlison, Republican candidate for Missouri’s 7th congressional district, speaks during the candidates’ forum during the Greene County Lincoln Day event at the Oasis Convention Center on Saturday, March 5, 2022. Voters in Missouri will choose from dozens of GOP candidates in a Tuesday, August 2, 2022 primary election that will likely determine Missouri’s next two U.S. Representatives. (Andrew Jansen/The Springfield News-Leader via AP)
Photo FILE – Rep. Eric Burlison speaks during a session Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, at the Missouri State Capitol. Budding Republican candidates are jumping on two open seats in the US Congress from Missouri. Voters will choose from dozens of GOP candidates in a primary on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022 that will likely determine Missouri’s next two U.S. representatives. (Daniel Brenner/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP)
Photo In this image provided by Kalena Bruce for Congress, cattle rancher Kalena Bruce, Republican candidate for Missouri’s 4th congressional district, poses. Voters in Missouri will choose from dozens of GOP candidates in a primary election on Tuesday, August 2, 2022 that will likely determine Missouri’s next two U.S. Representatives. (Kalena Bruce for Congress via AP)
Photo FILE – Missouri State Senator Mike Moon speaks in his Capitol office Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, in Jefferson City, Mo. Budding Republican candidates are jumping on two open U.S. congressional seats from Missouri. Voters will choose from dozens of GOP candidates in a primary on Tuesday, Aug. 2, which will likely determine Missouri’s next two U.S. representatives. (AP Photo/David A. Lieb, File)
Photo U.S. Representative Billy Long, R-Mo., speaks at the PFI Western Store in Springfield, Mo., Tuesday, August 10, 2021, as he kicks off his U.S. Senate campaign. Budding Republican candidates are jumping on two open seats in the US Congress from Missouri. Voters will choose from dozens of GOP candidates in a primary on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022 that will likely determine Missouri’s next two U.S. representatives. (Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader via AP)
Photo FILE – US Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington March 25, 2014. Aspiring Republican candidates jump two open U.S. congressional seats from Missouri. Voters will choose from dozens of GOP candidates in a primary on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022 that will likely determine Missouri’s next two U.S. representatives. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke, File)
Photo Eric Burlison, right, Republican candidate for Missouri’s 7th congressional district, speaks with Jim Roller during the Greene County Lincoln Day event at the Oasis Convention Center on Saturday, March 5, 2022. Voters in Missouri will choose from dozens of GOP candidates in a Tuesday, August 2, 2022 primary election that will likely determine Missouri’s next two U.S. Representatives. (Andrew Jansen/The Springfield News-Leader via AP)
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