JEFFERSON CITY — For the first time in memory, the Democratic Party has failed to file a congressional candidate in Missouri's Ninth District, giving first-term Republican Blaine Luetkemeyer of St. Elizabeth an easy shot at re-election.
Luetkemeyer has drawn minimal opposition in the Republican primary from James O. Baker of St. Peters, who has not actively campaigned. Two candidates have filed from the Libertarian Party: Steven Wilson of Westphalia and Christopher W. Dwyer of Hallsville.
When filing for the 2010 elections closed at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Secretary of State's Office, Luetkemeyer, 57, had no Democratic opponent.
There have been rare examples in Missouri politics in which a major political party did not field a candidate in a congressional election. According to Secretary of State Robin Carnahan's office, the last time a Missouri incumbent congressman ran unopposed was in1984, when nobody filed against U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-St. Louis, in the Third Congressional District.
The Ninth District, which includes 25 Missouri counties, has usually been busy with candidates. Five Democrats and five Republicans, including Luetkemeyer, sought the seat in 2008, when incumbent Rep. Kenny Hulshof, a Republican, gave up the position to run for governor.
Political observers had a number of explanations for why Luetkemeyer did not draw a major party opponent. One is that a Democratic candidate faces formidable challenges in the predominantly rural district, which includes six counties south of the Missouri River and extends northward to the Iowa state line.
"It's a difficult district for Democrats," said George Connor, a political science professor at Missouri State University. "It's not overwhelmingly Republican, but it was always considered a safe seat for Kenny Hulshof. The incumbent occupant has enough support across the board."
Connor also said the 2010 election could be troublesome for Democrats because traditionally the president's party usually loses seats in mid-term elections.
Judy Baker, the former state representative from Columbia and the unsuccessful Democratic congressional candidate in 2008, said Luetkemeyer's financial resources make it tough for an opponent.
"The ability to self-fund at any level makes it difficult for an ordinary person to run for office," Baker said. "In my campaign we worked hard and had 8,000 individual givers and were still unable to match the self-funding of the opponent."
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