Open courses in Missouri attract many to competitions

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

Rep. Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long are running for the Senate in Tuesday’s GOP primary, leaving seats open in Hartzler’s central 4th congressional district and Long’s southwestern 7th congressional district.

The Republican primaries for Hartzler’s seat include Senator Rick Brattin, 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 in mid-July, although Campbell is primarily self-funded and has not spent any money.

Republicans seeking Long’s seat include state senators 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 incumbent Missouri representatives won their seats when the positions became vacant, a rare occurrence 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 chose not to run for re-election.

One reason is that there are no federal term limits. Incumbents also typically have a reputation, a financial advantage and the ability to claim credit for local programs and state funding, said Robynn Kuhlmann, a political scientist at Central Missouri University.

“That’s why we tend to see a flood of candidates in open elections,” she said. “In general, open elections are a chance to enter the arena with a much more even playing field.”

A cluttered GOP pipeline of up-and-coming candidates is boosting competitiveness in Missouri’s Republican primary, said the state’s longtime Republican political adviser, John Hancock.

Republicans hold nearly a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate, a traditional stepping stone to political careers. They are barred from standing for re-election after eight years of service, prompting candidates to seek other political options.

“The term limit is either imminent or coming, and the opportunities for political advancement are few and far between,” Hancock said.

He expects open congressional and statewide seats to continue to attract large fields of Republican hopefuls.

Democrats face big opportunities in the Republican-controlled 4th and 7th districts, Kuhlmann said.

“Because of this, despite the upcoming general election, the candidates who emerge successful from these two Republican primary elections may face a coronation,” she said.

This dynamic encourages candidates to take ever more conservative positions in order to win the primaries.

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

Top issues for Republican candidates include abortion, immigration, American energy independence and gas prices, inflation, and “the usual midterm fight against the president’s party and its apparatus,” Kuhlmann said.

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

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

Jay Wasson, right, a Republican candidate for Missouri’s 7th congressional district, speaks to voters during the Greene County Lincoln Day event at the Oasis Convention Center Saturday, March 5, 2022. Voters in Missouri are selected during a primary Dozens of GOP candidates to select Election Tuesday, August 2, 2022, which will likely determine Missouri’s next two U.S. Representatives. (Andrew Jansen/The Springfield News-Leader via AP)
photo Taylor Burks speaks at Shakespeare’s Pizza-South in Columbia, Missouri, in July 2021 during the kickoff of his campaign for the seat in Missouri’s 4th congressional district. That seat is held by Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who is running for the US Senate. (Charles Dunlap/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP)
photo Eric Burlison, a Republican candidate for Missouri’s 7th congressional district, speaks at the candidate forum during the Greene County Lincoln Day event at the Oasis Convention Center Saturday, March 5, 2022. Missouri voters will be drawn from dozens of during a primary GOP candidates select Election Tuesday, August 2, 2022, which 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. Aspiring Republican candidates are jumping into two vacant US congressional seats in Missouri. Voters will choose from dozens of GOP candidates during a primary on Tuesday, August 2, 2022, who will likely determine Missouri’s next two U.S. representatives. (Daniel Brenner/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP)
photo Catcher Kalena Bruce, a Republican candidate for Missouri’s 4th congressional district, poses in this image provided by Kalena Bruce for Congress. Missouri voters will choose from dozens of GOP candidates during a primary 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 office in the Capitol in Jefferson City, Missouri on Tuesday, February 1, 2022. Rising Republican candidates are jumping into two vacant seats in the US Congress in Missouri. Voters will choose from dozens of GOP candidates during a primary on Tuesday, August 2, who will likely determine Missouri’s next two U.S. representatives. (AP Photo/David A. Lieb, file)
photo US Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo., speaks Tuesday, August 10, 2021 at the PFI Western store in Springfield, Mo. as he launches his campaign for the US Senate. Aspiring Republican candidates are jumping into two vacant US congressional seats in Missouri. Voters will select from dozens of GOP candidates during a primary on Tuesday, August 2, 2022 that will likely determine Missouri’s next two U.S. representatives. (Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader via AP)
photo FILE – U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., addresses reporters on Capitol Hill March 25, 2014 in Washington. Aspiring Republican candidates are jumping into two vacant US congressional seats in Missouri. Voters will select from dozens of GOP candidates during a primary on Tuesday, August 2, 2022 that will likely determine Missouri’s next two U.S. representatives. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke, file)
photo Eric Burlison, right, a Republican candidate for Missouri’s 7th congressional district, speaks with Jim Roller during the Greene County Lincoln Day event at the Oasis Convention Center Saturday, March 5, 2022. Missouri voters will be one in dozens during of GOP candidates select primary on Tuesday, August 2, 2022, which will likely determine Missouri’s next two U.S. Representatives. (Andrew Jansen/The Springfield News-Leader via AP)
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