July 26, 2014

Incumbents hold the cards in Missouri congressional races

Emanuel Cleaver, Sam Graves and Vicky Hartzler have attracted multiple challengers, but few of those challengers have what it takes to win.

With all the thanks that flow toward Congress — its approval rating stands at a historic low — it’s a wonder anyone would run for the U.S. House. But run they do. And everyone vows to make the system work better.

In the Aug. 5 primary election, multiple candidates, many of them first-timers, are challenging three area Missouri incumbents — Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II in the 5th District, Rep. Sam Graves in the 6th and Rep. Vicky Hartzler in the 4th. But it’s difficult to project the kind of out-of-nowhere upsets that have occurred elsewhere.

Here are The Star’s recommendations in these races.

5th District

Even — or especially — in this era of gridlock, experience counts for something. Emanuel Cleaver, with his record of leadership, compassionate moderation and service to the district, has earned a sixth term in the House. His work on jobs and economic development is undeniable.

None of his challengers on the Democratic ballot appears to have what it takes to unseat him. They include Bob Gough, a staunch, anti-tax Republican who thought his chances to defeat Cleaver would be better on the Democratic side of the ballot; Eric Holmes, an Army Reserve colonel who conducts operational research at Fort Leavenworth; Charles Lindsey, who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2000; and Mark Memoly, a commercial truck salesman focused on economic growth.

In the Republican primary, Michael Burris of Kansas City, who works in his family’s Bledsoe Rentals business, is running with a jobs-and-growth emphasis. He has been quietly working toward a campaign for several years, based on his industry background and experience working with lawmakers in Washington. Burris provides a viable alternative to perennial candidate Jacob Turk of Lee’s Summit, who is hoping to go up against Cleaver for a fifth time. Bill Lindsey, of Lee’s Summit, vows to fashion legislation that will help the district and the nation economically. Also on the ballot: Berton Knox of North Kansas City.

6th District

Incumbent Rep. Sam Graves has attracted a trio of sincere though inexperienced GOP opponents, all sparked by a sense that Congress in general has failed in key areas and that Graves in particular is more focused on “corporate welfare” than on the needs of his district. His campaign would dispute such characterizations and point instead to his work on behalf of Missouri farmers and other local interests.

Kyle Reid, of Louisiana, Mo., is a farmer, electrician and earnest believer in individual liberty and frugal government; he opposes Common Core educational standards and a tax-credit program that would support a huge electrical transmission project envisioned to cut through the district. Brian Tharp, owner of a trailer manufacturing company in Rock Port, is vying to reverse the tide of the national debt and opposes legislation such as NAFTA and CAFTA, which he argues hurts local businesses and residents. Also on the ballot: Christopher Ryan of Liberty.

On the Democrat ballot, W.A. “Bill” Hedge, a pastor and retired teacher who lives in St. Joseph, appears to be the only legitimate candidate. In his second try for the office, Hedge emphasizes his belief in economic fairness and increasing access to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. His ballot opponents: Edward Dwayne Fields of Kansas City and Gary Lynn Crose of Gladstone.

4th District

It’s hard to find a position that we agree on with incumbent Rep. Vicky Hartzler, but voters looking for a fresh alternative will have to wait until the general election, when she’ll likely face the lone Democrat on the primary ballot, Nate Irvin of Columbia.

Her Republican primary opponent, John Webb, of Cleveland, Mo., describes himself as a “constitutional, fiscal conservative” who thinks the government “spends too much money it doesn’t have.”

Two Libertarians are vying for a spot on the general election ballot: Randall Langkraehr of Warrensburg, who once ran as a Republican against Cleaver in the 5th District, and Herschel L. Young of Harrisonville, a onetime Democrat who was disqualified after being elected Cass County Commissioner in 2010 because of an earlier felony assault conviction.

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