Missouri's race for governor is likely to be one of the hottest this season. Incumbent Bob Holden, a one-term Democrat, was ousted in his party's primary in August when voters chose State Auditor Claire McCaskill to run against Republican Sec. of State Matt Blunt.
McCaskill made electability a key issue in the Democratic primary, insisting she not only stood a better chance of beating Blunt in the general election, but could help Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry to victory in this important swing state.
Holden and McCaskill quickly declared a unified front in the race against Blunt, who was elected in 2000. Blunt, who faced little opposition in the Republican primary, is the son of Rep. Roy Blunt, the third-ranking House Republican.
Holden's stunning loss, the first primary defeat of a sitting governor in a decade, capped a term mired in turmoil since his first day in office. He was derisively dubbed "One Term Bob" by opponents. His term began with a lavish, $1 million inaugural ball that he struggled to pay off. He then was forced to make millions of dollars in state budget cuts as the economy _ and state revenues _ plunged downward. Republicans also won control of the Senate for the first time in a half-century during the term, and Holden achieved a rare distinction in 2003 when lawmakers overrode three of his vetoes _ matching what had been the total number of vetoes overridden in Missouri since the Civil War.
Presidential politics will also claim a share of the public's attention. President Bush will try to win Missouri as he did in 2000, when he claimed 50 percent of the vote to Al Gore's 47 percent. Longtime congressman from St. Louis, Rep. Dick Gephardt, sought the Democratic presidential nomination but dropped out during the primaries after failing to gain momentum. He's now focused on helping likely nominee Sen. John Kerry capture the battleground state.
Gephardt has announced his retirement from his seat in the 3rd district, which he has held since 1976. State Rep. Russ Carnahan, son of the late Gov. Mel Carnahan and former U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan, was chosen amongst a slew of Democrats to take on Republican Bill Federer, a St. Louis County resident defeated by Gephardt in 1998 and 2000. Carnahan's sister, Robin Carnahan, was unopposed in her bid for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state.
Missouri voters also overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional ban on gay marriage, with 71 percent favoring the amendment, a decision that was closely watched by national groups on both sides of the battle. It was the first such vote since the historic ruling in Massachusetts last year that legalized same-sex weddings there.
Republican Sen. Kit Bond faces re-election in 2004 for his seat, which he has held since 1986.
After 10 years in Congress, Democrat Rep. Karen McCarthy will retire in 2004. McCarthy's descent began in March 2003 with a drunken fall on a Capitol Hill escalator. It ended amid allegations that she misused her staff and her campaign for personal gain, such as several trips to the Grammy Awards.
Former Kansas City Mayor Emanuel Cleaver defeated political newcomer and former White House fellow Jamie Metzl in the Democratic primary for McCarthy's seat. He will face Republican nominee Jeanne Patterson.
In the 2002 Senate race, Republican Jim Talent, a former congressman, edged incumbent Democrat Jean Carnahan, who had been appointed to the seat won posthumously in 2000 by her husband, Mel Carnahan.
After friendly redistricting, all nine incumbents were re-elected, including Gephardt.
The 2002 elections marked the first time Republicans won control of both houses of the state Legislature since 1948.