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Will Another Carnahan Challenge Bond in 2010?

After the St. Louis Cardinals skipped town for Phoenix, Missouri’s gateway city waited a long time for another National Football League team — and a long wait is exactly what some Show Me State politicians could be facing in their dreams of advancing to Congress. [IMGCAP(1)]

With House Members entrenched and their districts drawn for maximum political protection, the best opportunity for electoral upheaval could be the Senate seat four-term Sen. Kit Bond (R) holds until a 2010 appointment with re-election.

And if there’s one thing Missouri’s famously skeptical residents have shown in recent years, it’s that no incumbent Senator is safe there, whether she is a Democrat who is the widow of a popular former governor, or he is a Republican who reflects the state’s center-right values and has committed no fireable offense while in office. In a 2002 special election, Sen. Jean Carnahan (D) lost to Rep. Jim Talent (R), with Talent subsequently falling to now-Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) in November.

“I consider all of our [Democratic House] seats safe, just as I consider all of their seats safe,” said one Missouri-based Republican strategist.

A Washington, D.C.-based Democratic strategist who follows Missouri politics speculated that Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D) might challenge Bond in 2010.

Robin Carnahan is the daughter of Mel Carnahan (D), the popular governor who was in a position to win the 2000 Senate race against then-Sen. John Ashcroft (R) when he died in a plane crash with just days remaining in that campaign. Robin Carnahan’s mother, Jean Carnahan, was appointed to the Senate after Mel Carnahan beat Ashcroft posthumously in a squeaker. Jean Carnahan then lost to Talent two years later.

Another Democrat mentioned as a possible Bond challenger is newly elected Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders. Jackson County includes Kansas City, which just happens to be McCaskill’s home base. McCaskill served as chief prosecutor for Jackson County for six years before running for and winning the position of state auditor in 1999.

Republicans say Bond is unlikely to face a primary challenge. But if he chose to retire, the names mentioned as possible GOP open-seat candidates range from Talent, who was defeated by McCaskill by three points in a tough race last year, to Reps. Sam Graves and Kenny Hulshof.

“If Bond doesn’t run, it’s going to be the wild, wild West on the Republican side,” the Democratic strategist predicted.

Missouri’s nine House seats appear relatively stable at present. But should retirements occur, a number of individuals stand ready to pounce.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity for political realignment lies in the Central and Western Missouri-based 4th district, if and when Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (D) calls it quits. The 75-year-old conservative Democrat is considered the only member of his party able to hold this otherwise Republican-tilting seat.

Both Democrats and Republicans expect the seat to be won by a Republican after Skelton retires, barring any serious changes to it in the next round of redistricting.

“If I was at the DCCC, I would put that in the loss column,” the Democratic strategist said.

Among those Republicans seen as salivating over Skelton’s seat: state Sen. Delbert Scott and wealthy Jefferson City automobile dealer Mike Kehoe, who is close to the Blunt family. The Blunts, of course, include House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R) and Gov. Matt Blunt (R).

For the Ultimate Fighting fans among you, the Western Missouri 6th district offers the best chance for a competitive race in 2008.

Although Graves doesn’t have to worry about a primary challenge, Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes (D) is said to be seriously considering going after the Republican and likely would have a clear path to the incumbent in the primary. Republicans don’t see Graves in any jeopardy from Barnes, but Democrats are high on her ability to pull off an upset.

McCaskill adviser Steve Glorioso also has advised Barnes, so there is a common link there that could come into play if the mayor runs against Graves next year.

If and when Graves retires or runs for another office, state Sen. Brad Lager (R) is considered by Republicans to be the Congressman’s heir apparent.

In the 1st district, Democrats say Rep. William Lacy Clay (D) is untouchable, whether in a primary or a general election, and Republicans agree. Clay won re-election last year with 73 percent of the vote.

In the 2nd district, Republicans insist Rep. Todd Akin (R) is secure, with some Republican state legislators prepared to run for the seat if the Congressman ever calls it quits, including Tom Dempsey, the majority floor leader of the GOP-controlled state House of Representatives.

Democrats generally subscribe to the notion that this district is off the table. But some say wealthy anesthesiologist and state Rep. Sam Page (D) might have what it takes to pull off the upset if he ever decided to challenge Akin or run for the seat if it opened up.

In the 3rd district, Rep. Russ Carnahan (D), the son of the former governor, has little to worry about, other than a major redrawing of his seat in the upcoming 2012 redistricting. If Carnahan were to decide against running for re-election, look for state Sen. Ryan McKenna (D) to be seen as a favorite to succeed the current Congressman.

McKenna’s father, Bill McKenna, is a former President Pro Tem of the state Senate and is currently chairman of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission.

In the 5th district, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D) was once thought to be considering retirement. But Democrats say any ideas he had of going home to Missouri are likely to be delayed now that he is in the majority. One Republican called the 5th district a “strong Democratic seat” unlikely to go GOP even if the seat opened up.

Blunt is safe in the 7th district and likely to stay there as long as he is happy with his gig as a Capitol Hill lawmaker. The Minority Whip is said to have zero Senate aspirations.

Should this seat open, Republicans say a host of Republican state lawmakers from Southwestern Missouri likely would get into a free-for-all Republican primary to replace Blunt. But no individual is considered the favorite. Democrats refer to this seat as “one of the toughest districts” in the state for their party.

In the Southeastern Missouri 8th district, there are regular rumors that Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R) will retire. And if she did, her Chief of Staff Lloyd Smith is seen as a shoo-in to be her successor.

Smith is considered the pre-eminent Republican campaign operative in Missouri, and until Talent lost to McCaskill in November his record in statewide races was perfect.

Other Republicans rumored to be eyeing this solid GOP seat include Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton and state Sen. Jason Crowell.

In the 9th, Hulshof is popular and talked about often for higher office, whether the Senate or a statewide post in Jefferson City. Republicans say a list of possible successors from their party has yet to emerge. And while Democrats concede winning the district would be difficult, they have not written it off (Hulshof won the seat last year with 61 percent of the vote.)

Among the Democrats mentioned who is thought of as most likely to run for the seat at some point is state Sen. Wes Shoemyer.

“He’s a populist — a glib, rural Democrat from the heart of the toughest territory in the district,” one Democratic operative said.

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