Missouri's 2010 4th District Race: Democratic Incumbent Ike Skelton Facing Serious Challenge from Republican Vicky Hartzler

In Missouri's 4th Congressional District, an area that includes portions of Jefferson City, long-term incumbent Ike Skelton, a Democrat, faces a strong conservative opponent in Republican Vicky Hartzler. Although Skelton has enjoyed comfortable wins in past elections, he's facing both a strong anti-incumbency mood and a much younger challenger in 2010.

Candidates for Missouri's 4th Congressional District (two-year term)
(Encompasses Johnson, Henry, St. Clair and Barton counties and includes the cities of Lebanon, Warrensburg, Sedalia, Marshall and parts of Missouri's state capital, Jefferson City. See a boundary map here.)

Candidate: Ike Skelton (incumbent)

Party: Democrat

Political experience: Representing Missouri's 4th Congressional District since 1977, Skelton served as Lafayette County attorney from 1957 to 1960. From 1971 to 1977, Skelton represented Lafayette County in the Missouri state senate. After incumbent William J. Randall announced his retirement from the U.S. House of Representatives, Skelton won the Democratic nomination for Randall's seat and was elected to Congress in 1976.

According to the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives, Skelton serves on the House Committee on Armed Services. He also has served as the chairman of the Small Business Subcommittee on Procurement, Tourism and Rural Development and the Congressional Rural Caucus, according to Skelton's website.

Key issues: A supporter of the military and veterans who have served in the armed forces, Skelton recently voted in favor of H.R. 5822 (Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2011). Skelton does not, however, support the repeal of DADT ("Don't Ask, Don't Tell"), the policy that prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the armed forces.

Farming and rural issues are also a focus for Skelton. Because Missouri's 4th Congressional District contains several rural areas, Skelton is a member of the Farmer Cooperative Caucus, House Rural Education Caucus and the House Rural Health Care Coalition. According to Skelton's website, he also stays in touch with the Fourth District Farmers' Advisory Committee.

Endorsements: According to press releases from his campaign, small-business owners in Sedalia, Mo., are supporting Skelton in the midterm election.

Chances of maintaining his seat: For the first time in more than three decades, Skelton may have to fight to remain in the U.S. House of Representatives. At 78, Skelton is considered out-of-touch by some Missouri voters, especially after voting against the repeal of DADT. According to the Riverfront Times, Skelton's remarks about DADT are considered homophobic by two LGBT groups, Show Me No Hate and Get Equal.

According to the Associated Press, Skelton also is one of the congressional "old-timers" who are facing real competition for their House seats in 2010. To show that he's keeping up with the times, Skelton has active accounts on the social networks Facebook and Twitter, but that may not be enough for a constituency looking for change.

Candidate: Vicky Hartzler

Party: Republican

Political experience: In 1994, Hartzler became a Missouri state representative for parts of Cass and Johnson counties. Hartzler served in this capacity for six years, choosing not to run for re-election after the birth of her daughter. In 2004, Hartzler served as state spokesperson for the Coalition to Protect Marriage in Missouri, a group opposed to same-sex marriages.

In 2005, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt appointed Hartzler the chairperson of the Missouri Women's Council, an agency within the Department of Economic Development. The Missouri Women's Council expressed goal is to provide women with the resources to find better jobs or start their own businesses. Hartzler also is the author of Running God's Way: Step by Step to a Successful Political Campaign.

Professional experience: Before running for public office, Hartzler, a graduate of both the University of Missouri-Columbia and Central Missouri State University, taught family and consumer sciences at the junior high and high school levels in the Missouri cities of Lebanon and Belton. Currently, Hartzler and her husband, Lowell, run a diversified farming operation and are owners of the Hartzler Equipment Company, a small business that deals in farm equipment.

Key issues: According to her website, Hartzler wants to control government spending through a balanced budget amendment and a freeze on new spending, except for national defense, Medicare and Social Security. She also is a strong supporter of small-business owners.

An opponent of the current health care reforms, Hartzler promises what she calls "true health care reform," including affordable insurance and expanded health coverage. Her energy policy calls for both green-energy sources and drilling for oil and gas in coastal waters, which, in Hartzler's opinion, will help make the United States more energy independent.

Endorsements: Hartzler recently received an endorsement from Mitt Romney's Free and Strong America PAC. The Missouri Right to Life Political Action Committee also endorsed Hartzler as the pro-life candidate in Missouri's 4th Congressional District.

Chances of unseating Ike Skelton: At a time when American voters are disenchanted with incumbent leadership, Vicky Hartzler poses a serious threat to Skelton. Hartzler has both the youth and political experience to make her a serious contender for Missouri's 4th Congressional District. Neither candidate gets points from LGBT organizations, though. Hartzler has taken a strong stand against same-sex marriages while Skelton has been branded as homophobic by LGBT groups for his stand on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Key Differences between Ike Skelton and Vicky Hartzler

Skelton and Hartzler take similar positions on key issues. Both candidates are in favor of continued funding for the military as well as supporting the needs of farmers. Skelton, like Hartzler, does not support the current health care reforms, voting against H.R. 3590 (Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act) in March 2010.

Despite his endorsement from Sedalia small-business owners, the Missouri Republican Party is portraying Skelton as a destroyer of small businesses and new jobs, primarily because he supported President Obama's economic stimulus package. In contrast, Hartzler's family runs their own farm equipment business in Missouri, which the state GOP says is an indication of her devotion to the small-business owner.

Missouri's 4th U.S. Congressional District

Location: Missouri's 4th Congressional District is located in the west-central portion of the state. Encompassing portions of Jefferson City and Kansas City, the 4th District includes the counties of Cass, Bates, Vernon and Barton.

2008 results: Skelton beat Republican challenger Jeff Parnell in 2008, receiving 66 percent of the votes.

Demographics: According to the 2000 US Census, the population of Missouri's 4th Congressional District was 621,690, which breaks down as 92.4 percent white, 3.2 percent black, 0.6 percent Asian, 1.9 percent Hispanic, 0.5 percent Native American and 0.1 percent other.

The Cook Partisan Voting Index of registered voters gives MO-4 an R+14 rating, indicating a strong Republican lean in this district.

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