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The biggest question going into Tuesday’s primary in Missouri will be whether Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R) wins a spot on the November statewide ballot or finds his nose in the classifieds section on Wednesday morning in search of private-sector work.

Hulshof, who is retiring from Congress after six terms, is locked in a tough gubernatorial primary battle with Show-Me-State Treasurer Sarah Steelman (R). As of Aug. 1, Hulshof had raised $2.4 million for the race, while Steelman had brought in almost $2 million.

The winner will face longtime state Attorney General Jay Nixon (D) on Election Day. Although Nixon, who does not have a primary opponent, has raised more than $8 million for the general election, outgoing Gov. Matt Blunt (R), son of House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R), recently signed off on a statewide contribution-limit ban — effective after the primary — that should help Republicans catch up on the fundraising front after the expensive nominating contest.

Hulshof’s departure, the only Congressional retirement and open-seat opportunity in the state this cycle, has created crowded Democratic and Republican primaries to find his replacement. State Rep. Judy Baker (D) filed first for the race and was endorsed by EMILY’s List earlier this summer. The first-term legislator, hospital administrator and minister’s wife had raised more than $400,000 through mid-July.

Former state Speaker Steve Gaw is the other frontrunner in the Democratic primary, but his bid has been plagued by fundraising problems. Gaw, who had just $40,000 in the bank as of mid-July, loaned his campaign $100,000 two weeks ago.

State Sen. Ken Jacob and Marion County commissioner Lyndon Bode also will appear on the Aug. 5 Democratic ballot.

The Republican race to replace Hulshof, too, has heated up dramatically in recent weeks. State Rep. Bob Onder (R) and former state tourism director Blaine Luetkemeyer (R) and their proxies have duked it out over the cheap northeastern Missouri airwaves during the past month.

After interviewing both candidates, the political wing of the anti-tax Club for Growth endorsed Onder in late July and immediately began airing ads trashing Luetkemeyer’s cost-cutting credentials. Both candidates have sunk more than $250,000 of their own money into the race.

Former University of Missouri football standout Brock Olivo (R) and state Rep. Danie Moore (R) also are running to replace Hulshof, but are not expected to garner significant support.

The 9th district leans Republican — President Bush took 59 percent of the vote there in 2004 — and Hulshof never won less than 59 percent in any of his re-election contests. But Democrats vow to make a real play for the seat, which was held by conservative Democrat Harold Volkmer until Hulshof defeated him in 1996.

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