Missouri voters will make decisions this fall on who will fill all eight of the state’s congressional districts.
But as it stands, there’s little debate over who likely will win.
All eight of the state’s incumbents in the U.S. House are in seats that – thanks to the 2011 redistricting – heavily favor one party or the other. As a result, none of them faces well-funded challengers this fall.
"Redistricting made the two Democratic seats safer, and it pretty much left the rest of the state open to Republicans,'' said George Connor, head of the political science department at Missouri State University in Springfield. As a result, he added, the only real congressional contests are intra-party affairs in the August primaries.
In the St. Louis area, the comfortable congressional incumbents include U.S. Reps. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, in the 1st District; Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, in the 2nd District; and Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, in the 3rd District.
All have opponents on the Nov. 4 ballot. But most of those rivals have raised little money and have been largely invisible on the campaign trail.
Lieber cites campaign-finance limits in bid against Wagner
The most notable exception is in the 2nd District, where Democrat Arthur Lieber is making another shot at the 2nd District, this time against Wagner, who first won the seat in 2012.
The GOP-leaning district includes much of west and south St. Louis County and part of St. Charles County. Lieber first sought the seat in a 2010 bid against then- U.S. Rep. Republican Todd Akin, R-Wildwood.
Lieber’s campaign is distributing yard signs this week and trying to get Wagner to agree to a debate.
But even Lieber acknowledges the long odds he faces in challenging Wagner, who’s swiftly becoming a Republican star on Capitol Hill – and has at least $1.4 million in the bank, as of her last campaign report with the Federal Election Commission.
Lieber hasn’t had to file any FEC reports because he’s raised and spent less than $5,000. But he says he will file a report in a couple weeks that will show donations of about $35,000.
Lieber says one of his key issues is poverty: “Ferguson is the price we pay for not dealing with this issue.”
He is also concerned about campaign-finance reform. “I don’t think that we can have real change in the country when people holding those offices are beholden to big monied interests,” Lieber said. “I don’t think it has to be that way.”
Wagner's spokesman Patrick Howell says she’s primarily focusing on fiscal issues, jobs and fighting sex trafficking.
Wagner is highlighting her efforts to protect 13,000 area jobs tied to Boeing’s production of the F-18 Growler aircraft, and her opposition to various parts of President Barack Obama’s agenda – including the Affordable Care Act – which she believes are too costly and limit the public’s choices.
Wagner also emphasizes that she supported 350 bills that passed the GOP-controlled House but have been blocked in the Democratic-controlled Senate. “She’s running for re-election because the job isn’t done,’’ her spokesman said.
Wagner has attracted national attention with her congressional proposals to attack sex trafficking, which she believes has particularly put children and women in danger.
Besides Lieber, Wagner also faces Libertarian Bill Slantz.
Wagner appears to feel confident enough about her own re-election that she’s also campaigning for other Republicans this fall, most of them in the St. Louis area.
Her favored candidates include Rick Stream, the GOP nominee for St. Louis County executive, as well as Republican state Senate candidates Jay Ashcroft in the 24th District in west St. Louis County and Paul Wieland in Jefferson County’s 22nd District.
Wagner also is assisting at least six Republicans running for the Missouri House, her spokesman said, and trying to beef up the Republican infrastructure in her congressional district.
Clay confident in 1st District
In the 1st District, U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., reports seeing little of his rivals: Republican Daniel Elder and Libertarian Robb Cunningham.
Clay’s district primarily includes the city of St. Louis, north St. Louis County and parts of south and west St. Louis County.
Clay’s campaign spokesman, his sister Michelle Clay, said that he’s focusing on a number of key groups, including the elderly, religious organizations and labor.
The congressman “is continuing to deliver his energetic, progressive campaign message that focuses on jobs, education, health care, housing and defending the right to vote,” she said.
Michelle Clay added, “He is also demanding that House Republicans, who have presided over the least productive Congress in history, finally allow a vote on raising the minimum wage, comprehensive immigration reform, equal pay for equal work, investing in our infrastructure to create jobs, and extending emergency unemployment benefits.”
Like Wagner, Clay – in office since 2001 -- also is confident enough about his own re-election chances that he’s planning “to go on the campaign trail to help both House and Senate candidates in close races,’’ his sister said.
The congressman's last campaign report showed him with $274,833 in the bank.
In 3rd District, focus on economy
Missouri’s sprawling 3rd District runs from Jefferson County to west of Jefferson City. It also includes western St. Charles County.
Republican Luetkemeyer, a farmer and businessman, has been in Congress since 2008. He originally represented the state’s 9th congressional district, but it was revamped into the 3rd District when Missouri lost a district after the 2010 census.
His last campaign report showed the congressman with almost $1 million in the bank.
Luetkemeyer says he’s been traveling around the district to promote his message of “low taxes, limited government and a strong military.”
He also points to his work on river issues, particularly those affecting the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Luetkemeyer sits on the port commisision dealing with the Mississippi River.
Many of the district residents that he’s met have made clear, he said, “they want an economy that’s back on track.” They’re also concerned about health-care costs, and the Affordable Care Act, which Luetkemeyer opposed.
In any case, Luetkemeyer says he hasn’t seen his opponents on the Nov. 4 ballot: Democrat Courtney Denton and Libertarian Steven Hedrick.