Incumbents have the edge in three congressional races in western Missouri. They’ve got the money, the political bases and the momentum of holding office. What they might not have is much enthusiasm among voters, though in midterm elections, that’s usually hard to find anyway.
None of these races likely will affect the balance of power in the House or Congress as a whole. But voters should still make their voices heard.
Democrat Emanuel Cleaver is facing his fifth challenge by Republican Jacob Turk, who once polled as much as 44 percent of the votes. Cleaver doesn’t seem worried and he is relying on the district’s tendencies to support his positive, faithfully Democratic stands on public education, fair housing, immigration reform, the Affordable Care Act and other issues.
Turk would align himself with the “small-government” forces working to reduce, for example, the regulatory influence of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Internal Revenue Service and other agencies
If either candidate is running a campaign, it’s hard to find, and certainly in the metro area the race has attracted far less attention than the more contentious and consequential contests across the state line. Also running is Roy Welborn, a Libertarian.
Cleaver does maintain strong and energetic ties to the district. If re-elected, Cleaver said, his main priorities would be working toward immigration solutions that would benefit Missouri farmers, businesses and citizens and trying to pin a national memorial status on the National World War I Museum at the Liberty Memorial. He deserves another term to work on those issues and to continue holding off the hard-right tide in the U.S. House.
Nate Irvin has virtually no money, but he has pluck, knowledge and a sincere drive to oust incumbent Vicky Hartzler from Congress. We can’t think of a single reason to recommend sending Hartzler back to Washington for a third term. Lately she has over-reacted on the Ebola virus, calling on restricting visas for West Africans, just as it seems she overshoots reason on many issues that come her way.
As he travels the district, Irvin says, he thinks he has tapped into a general discontent with Congress. In the farm bill debate, Hartzler voted to cut SNAP funding (food stamps), which, Irvin maintains, are important to district residents. Irvin also notes the blatant hypocrisy that Hartzler’s family farm has benefited from hundreds of thousands of dollars in subsidies under the nation’s farm legislation.
Irvin hopes to present values that stand in stark contrast to Hartzler’s brand of harsh conservatism. He favors significant campaign finance reform, to quash the influence of big money. He supports accessible higher education (Hartzler voted to limit Pell grant funding). His views tend to be socially liberal and libertarian; he favors gay marriage and decriminalization of marijuana.
It’s disappointing that Democrats can’t find a strong challenger to Republican Sam Graves. Bill Hedges, a St. Joseph minister and former teacher, seems to have his heart in the right place, but his chances of unseating the incumbent in the largely rural district are minuscule. Graves is a lock — another redistricting success story. His record is far less reckless than Hartzler’s, which leads to a reluctant conclusion that his experience makes him well-suited to represent the district, for now.