By ALAN SCHER ZAGIER
(KANSAS CITY, Mo., AP) — Two years’ of legislative gridlock in Washington didn’t keep Missouri voters from again selecting each of the state’s seven incumbent members of Congress in Tuesday’s general election.
First-term Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a Republican, held off Democratic challenger Teresa Hensley in the most closely-watched race in Missouri’s 4th District. Hartzler earned national attention in 2010 with her upset of long-time Rep. Ike Skelton.
In suburban St. Louis, former state and national GOP leader Ann Wagner won the open 2nd Congressional District seat 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 during former President George W. Bush’s first term defeated Valley Park Democrat Glenn Koenen.
The suburban St. Louis district was Missouri’s only open U.S. House seat this year. Both Wagner and Koenen won multi-candidate party primaries in August to advance to the general election.
Hartzler, a former teacher and state lawmaker who helped lead the successful fight for a 2004 state ballot measure banning gay marriage, called her win a victory for “common sense ideas and heartland values.” A staunch opponent of President Obama’s administration, she pledged to “look for common ground” with Democrats over the next two years, particularly on economic issues.
Hensley called the campaign “the most amazing journey” and complimented her opponent’s decisive win. The Democrat said she expects to seek another term as Cass County prosecutor when she is up for re-election in 2014.
“We knew this was going to be a tough district to run in,” Hensley said. “I was very proud of the campaign we ran. I don’t have any regrets.”
As a House freshman in a redrawn district, Hartzler was considered the most vulnerable of the seven congressional incumbents. 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.
In the city of St. Louis, six-term Congressman William Lacy Clay Jr. defeated 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 redistricting matched the two incumbents, both sons of long-time state politicians. Carnahan had chosen to face Clay rather than seek an open seat in the 2nd District.
In a revamped 3rd District, Republican Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer won a third term, defeating 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. Missouri lost its ninth district because of population declines in the latest U.S. Census.
In Kansas City, former mayor Emanuel Cleaver turned back yet another effort by perennial opponent Jacob Turk, defeating his Republican challenger in Missouri’s 5th District for the fourth straight time. Cleaver is chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
In northwest Missouri, Republican Rep. Sam Graves won a seventh term by defeating Democrat Kyle Yarber of Gladstone in the 6th District. In southwest Missouri, first-term Rep. Billy Long of Springfield turned back Democrat Jim Evans of Republic in the 7th District.
And in southeast Missouri, Jo Ann Emerson of Cape Girardeau, the state’s longest-serving member of Congress, beat Poplar Bluff chiropractor Jack Rushin in the 8th District to win her ninth term in the House.