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.”