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.