Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D)
Missouri 5th District
Kansas City, named after a state it isn’t in and a river it doesn’t touch, is the center of one of America’s large metro areas, the biggest on the central Great Plains. The first pioneers here started little towns on the bluffs above the Missouri River—Independence, Kansas City, Westport—that coalesced a few decades later. Here, traders on the Santa Fe Trail set out to cross the Sand Hills of Kansas to reach Mexican territory. Later, Jayhawkers and Bushwhackers fought for control of Bleeding Kansas during the Civil War. Kansas City was a rail center and, in the 1920s, had one of the largest stockyards in the country, a major commercial center with lean skyscrapers and the Country Club Plaza, the first shopping center in America. The city is famous also for its black community, its National Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, its historic jazz district that has been home to musicians like Scott Joplin, Charlie Parker and Count Basie, and for its much-praised barbecue. The area is also famous as the home of Harry Truman, who grew up on a farm now in the suburb of Grandview and who lived in his wife’s family’s house in Independence, the old county seat just to the east.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 5th Congressional District of Missouri includes most of Kansas City, the largest city in Missouri, plus Grandview and the bulk of Independence. The more suburban slices of Jackson County to the east have been filled with new subdivisions. It also includes fast-growing Belton and Raymore along U.S. 71 in Cass County just to the south. Most of the metro area’s landmarks, including the Truman home, are here but much of the metropolitan area growth is across the state line in Kansas. One-quarter of the district’s residents are black, the second highest percentage among Missouri districts. Politically, the seat has been solidly Democratic. John Kerry carried it 60%-40% in 2004, and Barack Obama won it 63%-36% in 2008.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D)
Elected: 2004, 3rd term.
Born: Oct. 26, 1944, Waxahachie, TX .
Home: Kansas City.
Education: Prairie View A&M U., B.S. 1968, St. Paul Schl. of Theology, M.Div. 1974.
Family: Married (Dianne); 4 children.
Elected office: Kansas City Cncl., 1979-91; Mayor, 1991-99.
Professional Career: Pastor, 1970-present; Radio talk-show host, 2002-04.
The congressman from the 5th District is Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat elected in 2004. He grew up in Waxahachie, Texas, in a three-room shack with no plumbing or electricity. He graduated from Prairie View A&M University, moved to Kansas City and earned a divinity degree, then became pastor of St. James United Methodist Church. He was elected to the City Council in 1979 and elected mayor in 1991. As mayor, Cleaver voiced support for the Clinton administration’s changes in welfare policy, which he described as “corrective surgery.” He backed expansion of downtown’s Bartle Hall Convention Center and supported the renovation of the deteriorating Liberty Memorial, the country’s largest World War I memorial. After leaving office, he hosted a radio talk show.
|Emanuel Cleaver (D)||197,249||(64%)||($554,041)|
|Jacob Turk (R)||109,166||(36%)||($56,599)|
|Emanuel Cleaver (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (64%), 2004 (55%)
In December 2003, Democratic Rep. Karen McCarthy announced that she would not run for reelection, and Cleaver was widely expected to succeed her. Few expected just how tough Cleaver’s road to Congress would be. In the primary, he faced former National Security Council aide Jamie Metzl, who raised substantial funds. Metzl hammered Cleaver on ethics issues, questioning the propriety of a loan that Cleaver took out to purchase a car wash business and his failure to pay $36,000 in back taxes on the business. Cleaver won the primary by 60%-40%. Metzl carried Cass County 59%-41% and ran 178 votes ahead in suburban Jackson County. But Cleaver led 68%-32% in Kansas City, where 57% of the votes were cast. In the general, Cleaver faced Republican businesswoman Jeanne Patterson, who said she would spend whatever it took to make the race competitive, including $3.2 million of her own money. Like Metzl, she made an issue of Cleaver’s ethics, emphasizing bribery and fraud convictions of Cleaver’s allies, though there was no evidence that he was involved in those crimes. Cleaver said that Patterson was politically inexperienced and was trying to buy the seat. He called himself a “hundred-aire” and criticized Patterson as a hypocrite for promising to create local jobs while her husband’s company reportedly was outsourcing work to India. Cleaver won 55%-42%. In his Kansas City base, which cast 48% of the vote, he led 71%-27%. Patterson took Jackson County 54%-43%.
In the House, Cleaver’s voting record is near the center of the Democrats. He led Congressional Black Caucus members seeking to play a role on environmental issues and got a seat on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. She designated Cleaver to act as a liaison with mayors and faith communities on those issues. He proposed changing House rules to require members to lease energy-efficient vehicles in their districts. “The public would rather see a sermon than hear one,” said Cleaver, whose own car runs on used cooking grease. In August 2007, the House approved, 218-196, a modified version requiring that leased congressional vehicles have low greenhouse gas emissions; the stipulation was also part of the major energy bill enacted that December. Cleaver has also sought protection for polar bears endangered by melting polar ice caps. On the Financial Services Committee, he testified for a bill to protect employees against discrimination because of sexual orientation, citing discrimination against his gay cousin.
Cleaver continued preaching regularly at his church in Kansas City but stepped down in 2008; his son replaced him. He has easily won re-election. He endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton over Barack Obama for president in August 2007 and complained about pressure tactics directed at African-American superdelegates who backed her. He called the Democratic presidential primary process “about as stupid as human beings could put in place.”