Rep. Sam Graves (R)
Missouri 6th District
The rolling fields along the Missouri River in northwest Missouri were settled in a rush in the late 19th century, and they lost people for most of the 20th century. Fewer hands were needed on farms than half a century ago, far fewer than a century ago. In 1940, this area had one of the largest meatpacking operations in the world, but the meatpacking business for years generated no new jobs here. Barge traffic on the Missouri has all but disappeared, a victim of low water levels that are the result of drought as well as recreational uses upstream and court rulings in favor of environmentalists. Just as Kansas City was the starting place for many wagon trains heading west, the river town of St. Joseph was the starting point for the Pony Express and its roughly 10-day transport of mail to Sacramento. Today, St. Joe is the biggest town north of Kansas City. With its meatpacking jobs as a draw, this has become the fastest-growing Hispanic community in the nation, with a 21% increase between July 2006 and July 2007; that has led to fear of law-enforcement raids among immigrants. The counties of northwest Missouri, aside from those in the Kansas City metro area, had 508,000 people in 1900, 452,000 in 1940 and 318,000 in 1990. But in the 1990s, the local economy began to perk up a little, and the number climbed to 330,000; some counties that had been losing population since 1900 started to gain. Biopharming—the use of genetically modified crops, such as rice, to grow medications—has become a growth industry in some of these rural communities. In 2008, Rock Port became the first area town to use only wind energy.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 6th Congressional District of Missouri takes in all of the counties in northwest Missouri plus part of metro Kansas City—Clay and Platte counties and a small portion of Jackson County east of Independence, including Blue Springs. The Kansas City area casts about half the district’s votes. The historic political tradition here was mostly Democratic, but it has been tempered by dislike for national Democrats’ cultural liberalism. This was strong Perot country in 1992; Bill Clinton carried it with a plurality in 1992 and 1996. But the rural vote here, as across the nation, has moved toward Republicans. George W. Bush carried the district with 53% in 2000 and 57% in 2004. John McCain won all of the counties north of Kansas City, except for Buchanan, which he lost by 54 votes.
Rep. Sam Graves (R)
Elected: 2000, 5th term.
Born: Nov. 7, 1963, Tarkio .
Education: U. of MO, B.S. 1986.
Family: Married (Lesley); 3 children.
Elected office: MO House of Reps., 1992-94; MO Senate 1994-2000.
Professional Career: Farmer.
The congressman from the 6th District is Sam Graves, a Republican first elected in 2000. He is a lifelong resident of Tarkio in the northwest corner of the state. He graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in agronomy, farmed with his father and brother, and joined the Farm Bureau. He ran for the state House in 1992 and beat a longtime Democratic incumbent. Two years later, he was elected to the state Senate. He attracted attention in 1998 with a five-hour filibuster against a school desegregation bill that he said put rural areas at a disadvantage, but the bill eventually passed.
|Sam Graves (R)||196,526||(59%)||($2,633,443)|
|Kay Barnes (D)||121,894||(37%)||($2,801,656)|
|Dave Browning (Lib)||12,279||(4%)||($4,519)|
|Sam Graves (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (62%), 2004 (64%), 2002 (63%), 2000 (51%)
Graves got his opportunity to run for the U.S. House when Democratic Rep. Pat Danner withdrew from her race for re-election just minutes before the filing deadline. Not by accident, the immediate favorite to succeed her was her son, state Sen. Steve Danner, also a Democrat. Graves entered the race within the short window provided by state law and drew support from national Republicans. Teresa Loar, a moderate Republican on the Kansas City Council, attacked Graves as the darling of extremist and sexist party leaders, but Graves beat her 68%-17%. In the general election, Danner billed himself as a conservative Democrat and switched from being pro-abortion rights to opposing abortion. In an editorial endorsing Graves, the Kansas City Star said that Danner’s campaign switch on abortion showed that he “engaged in raw opportunism at the slightest opportunity.” Graves won 51%-47%.
In the House, Graves showed some moderate instincts, especially on economic policy and has usually been a party loyalist. He has tended mostly to local issues. In 2005, the House passed his amendment to the transportation bill to preempt state laws governing liability for damages involving rental cars, a measure of interest to St. Louis-based Enterprise Rent-A-Car. In 2007, the House passed his amendment to the farm bill banning anyone found cheating federal farm programs from participating in the future. The House also approved his bill, which he sponsored with Rep. Jason Altmire, a Pennsylvania Democrat, to loosen restrictions on the eligibility of small businesses for investment capital.
Graves has had no trouble with re-election. Local Democrats and a few Republicans have complained that he uses hard-nosed political tactics. In 2006, the Star endorsed his opponent, Sara Jo Shettles, who chaired the Clay County Democrats, and criticized Graves as “reluctant to acknowledge serious problems facing the country.” Graves won 62%-36%.
In 2008, national Democrats were excited when former Kansas City Mayor and St. Joseph native Kay Barnes announced she would challenge Graves. Republican Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond publicly praised Barnes’s record in office while she was being recruited to run against Graves. Bond and Graves have fought over local issues, including the removal of Graves’s brother Todd Graves as local U.S. attorney in 2006, supposedly at Bond’s urging, although he denied involvement. In the campaign, Democrats attacked Graves for his support of the Iraq war and opposition to expansion of the federal children’s health insurance program. Barnes raised slightly more money than Graves and made appeals to the middle-class, attempting to mirror the success of Democrat Claire McCaskill’s 2006 Senate campaign. Graves attacked Barnes for “San Francisco values” and supporting “a homosexual agenda” because her picture had appeared in a gay magazine. Graves did remarkably well against a tough candidate, winning 59%-37%. He won all counties, including 60%-37% in Barnes’s base of Jackson.