Web exclusive: Republican tidal wave sweeps through Missouri

From the Missouri Digital News State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY – A Republican tidal wave swept through Missouri last week, giving Roy Blunt a U.S. Senate seat, turning out an incumbent state auditor and handing Republicans a number of major state legislative victories.

“People want to hold onto the unique strength of America,” said Sen.-elect Blunt, declaring his victory a win for Missourians tired of the policies of President Barack Obama and national Democrats.

At an election-night victory party in Springfield, Blunt echoed a theme Republicans across the state and nation had voiced.

“This is the time when we decide whether we are going to renew the lease on freedom,” Blunt said.

While published polls had indicated the GOP would retain Kit Bond’s U.S. Senate seat, the magnitude of Democrat defeats exceeded even the most optimistic predictions of Republicans.

Republican Vicky Hartzler won the U.S. House seat held by the veteran House Armed Services Committee Chair Ike Skelton. Republican Tom Schweich defeated incumbent State Auditor Susan Montee. And Republicans increased their majority in the state General Assembly by at least 19 seats.

Blunt’s victory came in the face of a ferocious negative campaign by Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan who had charged Blunt with being a Washington insider tied to lobbyists.

When incumbent Sen. Bond announced in January he would not seek another term, Blunt jumped at the chance and ran in the Republican primary.

Blunt has served as U.S. representative of Missouri’s 7th District since his victory in 1996. He was elected to high-ranking House positions during his 14-year tenure in the House including Republican whip.

Like other GOP campaigns in Missouri, Blunt portrayed Carnahan as an ideological soul mate to Pres. Barack Obama.

Carnahan reciprocated the attacks with her own, addressing Blunt’s tenure in the House and his Washington insider status. In her ads, she charged Blunt’s voting record favored the interests of big businesses, including his wife’s lobbyist ties to the tobacco industry and legislation he promoted to benefit certain tobacco companies.

Carnahan, who has two years left in her term as secretary of state, urged the approximately 100 supporters at her election night watch in St. Louis to stay involved in the political process.

“Never, ever let the fire go out,” she said paraphrasing advice she was told by her father, the late Gov. Mel Carnahan.

“Politics as usual is not going to cut it. Our people deserve better,” Carnahan said. She said she talked with Blunt and encouraged him to put the good of Missourians ahead of special interests.

Blunt entered public service in 1972 when he was elected to the county clerkship of Greene County. Like Carnahan, Blunt was elected secretary of state in 1984. Serving another term as secretary of state before his unsuccessful primary campaign for governor in 1992 — an office his son, Matt, subsequently won 12 years later.

After his defeat, Roy Blunt took a sabbatical from politics to serve as president of the Southwest Baptist University until he ran for Congress in 1996.

In defeating Carnahan, Blunt has beat a member of Missouri’s prominent Carnahan political dynasty. Her father, Mel Carnahan, was governor of Missouri from 1993 until his 2000 fatal plane crash while campaigning for the U.S. Senate. He was posthumously elected to the Senate, and his wife, Jean, served for him until a special election.

In the western Missouri fourth Congressional district, Republican Vicky Hartzler had portrayed Skelton as a tool of House Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Skelton, who has served as in Congress since 1977, campaigned as an advocate for military service men and women. He had been described as a moderate to conservative member of the Democratic Party.

“For my entire life, I’ve had a love affair with the state of Missouri,” Skelton told about 50 supporters at his election-night watch in Lexington. “That love affair continues.”

Skelton, who had never lost an election before, called representing the people of his district the “political highlight of my life.”

In the state legislature, Republicans made major gains — capturing at least 17 House Democratic seats and at least two Senate seats.

Among the Democrats defeated were two of the more moderate, rural members — Sen. Wes Shoemeyer, D-Clarence, and Sen. Frank Barnitz, D- Lake Spring. Both had identified themselves as rural, more conservative alternatives to the party’s liberal, urban wing. Barnitz had been the chair of the Senate Democratic caucus.