What's at stake in Missouri's primary
Dear Beaconites -
I've always wondered why Missouri chooses to hold our primary in the dog days of August, long after the buzz of the presidential primary season has died and before interest starts to build toward November. The timing seems exquisitely calibrated to minimize interest. Yet, as Beacon coverage this week indicates, this year's primary is turning into a surprisingly interesting contest.
This is partly because the whiff of vulnerability surrounding some incumbents has drawn strong challengers. It's also because redistricting has pitted some veterans against each other.
In the 1st congressional district, perhaps it was inevitable that the faceoff between Democratic incumbents William Lacy Clay and Russ Carnahan would turn somewhat personal, as Beacon political reporter Jo Mannies has noted. After all, few policy differences separate the two.
The August vote will likely determine who wins the seat in November. Regardless of the outcome, the campaign's repercussions could last for years, echoes of a clash of political dynasties that is testing the Democratic party's capacity to navigate crosscurrents of race and history.
Beyond November -- the joint election project of the Beacon, the Nine Network and St. Louis Public Radio -- had hoped to host a televised debate between Clay and Carnahan. But Clay said this week that he would not participate.
In the lieutenant governor's race, incumbent Republican Peter Kinder's earlier missteps have opened the door to spirited challenges in both parties. State Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah, has amassed impressive donations from some of Kinder's former backers, including retired financier Rex Sinquefield and TAMKO CEO and President David Humphreys, Beacon political reporter Jason Rosenbaum noted this week. The Democratic battle is a free-for-all of eight, all with relatively small warchests.
Perhaps the highest profile primary contest is the three-way Republican race to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, another incumbent considered vulnerable. As Jo reported this week, the Missouri race is drawing national attention. Sarah Palin has endorsed Sarah Steelman and a Democratic PAC began funding ads aimed at Republican hopeful John Brunner. All three Republican candidates -- Brunner, Steelman and Rep. Todd Akin, R-Town and Country -- have been directing much of their attention toward outstate Missouri recently.
With the primary less than three weeks away, the Beacon has much more campaign coverage in the works, including a look at key state house and senate races and at the only initiative on the ballot, a constitutional amendment on public prayer.
Update: For details about the races in your area, check Beyond November's Voters' Guide. Feed in your address, and it will provide the list of races and candidates that you'll be voting on. The guide, still somewhat of a work in progress, includes biographical information and candidates' answers to questions specifically tailored to highlight key issues in those races. We continue to add information as candidates respond. We're also adding links to more information about who funds each candidate, providing context that you might find useful in deciding how to vote. End update.
As Beacon coverage this week indicates, even this dog days of August election offers many reasons to get interested. We hope the Beacon's continuing coverage will help you see clearly what's at stake.