Rep. Russ Carnahan (D)
Missouri 3rd District
Middle America, it could be said, lies somewhere on the south side of metropolitan St. Louis. The geographical center of the country’s population was here in 1980, just south of St. Louis in Jefferson County. While that point has moved further southwest, St. Louis is still the metro area nearest the demographic midpoint of the country. Geographically, this is a node where some of the nation’s main arteries come together. The Missouri River flows into the Mississippi a few miles north of St. Louis’s Gateway Arch. The National Road and its successors, U.S. 40 and Interstate 70, cross the Mississippi just below the Arch. And the great tides of Southerners migrating west up the Mississippi and of Germans migrating overland met here to create one of the nation’s largest and most bustling cities. The south side of St. Louis is famous for its pleasant parks and tight-knit, neat neighborhoods, including “Little Bosnia” in the Bevo Mill section. Its most famous symbols are the Anheuser-Busch brewery south of downtown and Grant’s Farm, where Ulysses S. Grant lived in the 1850s and where Anheuser-Busch bred the Budweiser Clydesdales. But many more people now live in the suburbs. In St. Louis County and south St. Louis, the Catholic Church has closed more than 20 parishes and eight schools since 1970, and the number of registered parishioners has dropped by half, while suburban parishes have grown.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 3rd Congressional District of Missouri consists of the south side of St. Louis, part of suburban St. Louis County and, to the south, Jefferson County and rural Ste. Genevieve County, the site of Missouri’s oldest permanent settlement. Ste. Genevieve County also is the planned site of the nation’s largest cement plant, scheduled to open in 2009. The district’s St. Louis County portions are mostly suburbs close to the St. Louis City line—Clayton, Maplewood, Richmond Heights, Webster Groves, Affton, Lemay, and Oakville. This is the descendant of districts dominated by St. Louis voters, but today the city casts less than 25% of its votes; almost half are cast in St. Louis County. Ethnically, this has been a heavily German-American area since the mid-19th century. Politically, it has been Democratic since the New Deal of the 1930s. The district voted 57% for John Kerry in 2004 and 60% for Barack Obama in 2008. Obama carried each of its counties.
Rep. Russ Carnahan (D)
Elected: 2004, 3rd term.
Born: July 10, 1958, Columbia .
Home: St. Louis.
Education: U. of MO, B.S. 1979, J.D. 1983.
Family: Married (Debra); 2 children.
Elected office: MO House of Reps., 2000-04.
Professional Career: Practicing atty, 1988-96; Consultant, BJC HealthCare, 1996-2004.
The congressman from the 3rd District is Russ Carnahan, a Democrat elected in 2004. He succeeded Richard Gephardt, a Democrat who rose to party leader in the House and who twice unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for president. Carnahan is the son of the late Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan and former Sen. Jean Carnahan, who was appointed to the Senate seat her husband had won shortly after he died in an airplane crash in October 2000. Russ Carnahan grew up in Rolla and graduated from the University of Missouri and its law school. He practiced law with his wife, Debra, until 1996, when he took a job as a lobbyist and consultant with BJC HealthCare, which operates several nursing homes and hospitals. In 1990, he ran unsuccessfully against Republican Rep. Bill Emerson in the old 10th Congressional District in southeast Missouri. In 2000, he was elected to the state House, and after the 2002 election, became chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. Two years later, he ran to succeed Gephardt, who was running for president.
|Russ Carnahan (D)||202,470||(66%)||($883,674)|
|Chris Sander (R)||92,759||(30%)||($32,444)|
|Russ Carnahan (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (66%), 2004 (53%)
Carnahan was among four current or former state legislators in the primary. Opponents ganged up on him, claiming he had a thin legislative record and was trading on his family name. His toughest opponent turned out to be Jeff Smith, a youthful political science instructor at Washington University in St. Louis. He was endorsed by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and assembled a large corps of volunteers. Gephardt remained neutral, but many of his allies backed state Sen. Steve Stoll, who supported gun rights and opposed abortion. It turned out to be a very close race. Carnahan won with 23% of the vote; Smith finished second with 21%, and Stoll had 18%. Smith led in St. Louis City and County; Stoll led by a wide margin in Jefferson and Ste. Genevieve counties; Carnahan ran second or third in each—a sign that he had greater name recognition but lacked a committed core of supporters. In the general election, Carnahan faced Republican author Bill Federer, who spent heavily and ran on a platform of opposing abortion in all circumstances and most gun control laws, including a ban on assault weapons, which Carnahan supported. Carnahan called for increased funding for education and said that he would “retarget” Bush’s tax cuts to the middle class. Carnahan won 53%-45%. Federer led 50%-48% in Jefferson County, but Carnahan carried St. Louis County, 52%-46%, and St. Louis City, 61%-36%.
In the House, Carnahan voted near the center of his party but a bit more conservatively on foreign policy. He helped to whip up support for a bill to provide federal funding for embryonic- stem-cell research, which uses excess embryos from in vitro fertilization. He worked with colleagues to enact the Combat Meth Act, with tough restrictions on production of methamphetamine, a major problem in Jefferson County. He also won passage in 2007 of a bill shifting federal land to St. Louis County to open access to a new casino in Lemay. Carnahan’s wife has served on the national board of Planned Parenthood, and he has pushed for increased funding for contraceptives in developing nations.
Carnahan has had two easy re-elections. Smith, runner-up in the 2004 primary, thought about another run but instead sought and won a state Senate seat. In the 2008 presidential contest, Carnahan endorsed Barack Obama in May 2007 and encouraged him to campaign actively in Missouri.