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MO U.S. House Races Heat Up

COLUMBIA (AP) — The race between first-term GOP Rep. Vicky Hartzler and Democratic Cass County prosecutor Teresa Hensley is among the most closely watched contests for U.S. House in Missouri this Tuesday. Six other incumbents also are seeking re-election, while a former diplomat and Republican leader hopes to succeed Rep. Todd Akin in his suburban St. Louis 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 is the Democratic Cass County prosecutor from Raymore who hopes 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 is considered the most vulnerable of the seven congressional incumbents.While most of her district is solidly Republican, Hensley and her supporters hope that the addition of Columbia after the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional boundaries will 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 has 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.But Hartzler, a former teacher and state lawmaker who helped lead the successful fight for a 2004 state ballot measure banning gay marriage, has 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.Elsewhere in Missouri, veteran officeholders William Lacy Clay Jr. Blaine Luetkemeyer, Emmanuel Cleaver, Sam Graves, Billy Long and Jo Ann Emerson are all considered heavy favorites in their districts.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.West of the St. Louis area, Republican Luetkemeyer seeks a third term in a revamped 3rd District. He faces Democratic business owner Eric C. Mayer. The new district stretches from western St. Charles County to Lake of the Ozarks and now includes Jefferson City, which had been part of the 4th District.In Kansas City, former mayor and incumbent Democrat Cleaver again faces Republican Jacob Turk for the fourth consecutive time in Missouri’s 5th District. Cleaver is chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.Republican Graves faces Democrat Kyle Yarber of Gladstone in northwest Missouri’s 6th District. In southwest Missouri, first-term Rep. Long of Springfield faces Democrat Jim Evans of Republic in the 7th District.And in southeast Missouri, Emerson of Cape Girardeau, the state’s longest-serving member of Congress, faces Poplar Bluff chiropractor Jack Rushin in the 8th Congressional District. Emerson is seeking her ninth term in the U.S. House.

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