One-fifth of primary winners will face no fall opponent

Monday, August 5, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- More than 20 percent of Tuesday's legislative primary winners will be all but guaranteed a job at Missouri's Capitol next January because they face no opposition in the general election.

Barring any independent candidate challenges this fall, 44 of Tuesday's winners will be part of the legislature when work gets under way Jan. 8. Many are likely to be incumbents returning to Jefferson City for another term.

In the Senate, that includes the winners of three Democratic seats and two Republican seats. In the House, that includes the winners of 26 Democratic seats and 13 Republican seats.

Another 24 House races and one Senate race are uncontested, meaning the candidates have no opponents in the primary nor general election.

'A little sickening'

As is customary, political parties have not generally backed certain candidates in legislative primaries. Both major political parties see the benefits and pitfalls of having some seats decided early.

"It's positive in that a lot of the races are over in August so people can concentrate on issues and concentrate on the session," said Mike Kelley, executive director of the Missouri Democratic Party. "But it's also a little sickening to see friends duking it out in these primaries."

Republicans currently hold a 17-16 majority in the 34-member Senate with one vacancy, while Democrats have an 85-75 edge with three vacancies in the 163-member House.

Term limits, approved by voters in 1992, have prevented nearly half the House and one-third of the Senate from seeking re-election. Candidates are also running in districts reshaped to reflect population changes noted in the 2000 census.

All 163 House seats are up for election every two years. This year, there are 73 open House seats because of term limits, while only about a dozen are open because incumbents are retiring or seeking other offices.

In the Senate, 17 of the 34 seats are up for election this year, 12 of which are open races because term limits bar the incumbent from running again.

John Hancock, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, said the primaries are more crowded and there are fewer uncontested races than in a typical election year.

"I think in part it's due to term limits, because in the past, incumbents made it harder for parties to find a candidate to challenge," Hancock said.

In better position

One of the fortunate lawmakers who has no opposition Tuesday nor in November is Sen. David Klindt, R-Bethany.

Klindt, who is angling for a Senate leadership post if Republicans retain their slim majority, said candidates without a November race are in a better position for the legislative session.

"It is an advantage standpoint that we don't have to run in a campaign and we can spend time working on state business," Klindt said.

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