A pair of long-standing area Congressional incumbents will face challenges for their seats in the Aug. 2 primary, but they also appear to be favorites to retain those.
In the largely Republican district that includes most of the northern third of Missouri and dips into the Eastern Jackson County communities of Blue Springs, Lee’s Summit and Grain Valley among others – longtime incumbent Sam Graves will face a pair of challengers in the Republican primary.
In District 5 – a largely Democratic district that includes all of Kansas City, most of Independence, parts of Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit and east to Glasgow – again appears to be shaping up as a race between incumbent Emanuel Cleaver II and his longtime challenger, Republican Jacob Turk.
Graves, R-Tarkio, will take on repeat challengers Kyle Reid and Christopher Ryan for the right to go against the Democratic winner and unopposed Libertarian Russ Monchil for the District 6 seat in the Nov. 8 general election.
Former primary winner Kyle Yarber heads a field of five on the Democrat side. Also running for the chance to face the Republican winner are Travis Gonzalez, Edward Fields, David Blackwell and Matt McNabney.
Graves is a well-entrenched Republican, who was first elected in 2000 and is currently serving his eighth term on Capitol Hill. He is Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit and also serves on the House Committee on Armed Services.
Graves, a farmer and businessman from northwest Missouri, is a fiscal conservative and Christian who is anti-gay marriage and pro-life and believes in preserving rights in the Second Amendment. He also is an advocate for small business and has voted the Republican line in Congress most of the time.
Ryan and Reid both ran against Graves in 2014, with Graves receiving 76.6 percent of the vote to 11.8 percent for Ryan and 5.9 for Reid. According to opensecrets.org, Graves has raised $1,181,845 for the 2016 election while Ryan and Reid have declared no money raised.
Ryan served two tours in the Marines from 1998 to 2005 and earned a public administration degree from Park University. Ryan also ran against Graves in the 2012 primary and lost.
Reid, an electrician and farmer from Louisiana, Mo., said he is running again to battle the building national debt.
“Since the last election cycle the federal debt has increased, we have a new Speaker of the House who is just as willing as the last to fully fund the Democrat wish list budget submitted to Congress by the president and we must still rely on our state officials, lawsuits and federal judges to protect our farms from EPA overreach,” Reid said on his Facebook page. “The front-runners in the presidential election are all big government progressives or outright socialists and we are saddled with a Congress that doesn't seem to be able to say no! They have not stood up to the current administration to demand negotiation of a better deal for us, and I do not have faith in the incumbents to stand up to the next one regardless of which party wins the presidency. … It is up to you to do something different if you want a different result.”
Yarber, a history and science teacher who lives in Gladstone, appears to be the front-runner on the Democrat side. He won the primary in 2012 and ran against Graves in the general election but lost to him. Graves won 65 percent of the vote in 2012 while Yarber garnered 32.5 percent. Yarber did not run in 2014 when Graves defeated Bill Hedge.
Yarber said he’s running again to bring “real representation back to the people here in Missouri.”
“We have a lot of working people that aren’t doing very well these days and it doesn’t seem like we have somebody in Congress that is looking out for our interest. There are a lot of things that the people in northern Missouri are hurting in a lot of ways,” Yarber told the Kirksville Daily Express.
Yarber said he hopes to more to help the middle class, veterans and senior citizens.
“You could just be a middle class person and you could live pretty well, and it’s harder and harder for people to do that,” Yarber said. “A lot of people are not living as well as they should be in the richest country in the world.”
Fields ran in the 2014 primary but finished second behind Bill Hedge and ahead of Gary Crose.
Gonzalez, a native of Guam who now lives in Trenton, ran in the Missouri District 7 Democratic primary in 2012 but lost to Harry Wyse. Gonzalez says he is for the right to bear firearms but that it needs expanded background checks. He is for campaign reform, looks to attack global warming, wants to provide more money for education, and wants tax and health care reforms.
Blackwell, who works as a software developer and lives in Riverside, describes himself as a “Sanders Democrat” on his Facebook page. "Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign inspired me to engage with politics and to join the Democratic party,” he said on his Facebook page.
McNabney, who lives in Kansas City North, is a project manager for an architectural firm and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Kansas State. He lists his concerns as “civil rights and social action, education, environment and human rights.”
Cleaver, D-Kansas City, who spoke in favor of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention Thursday, has one challenger in the primary, Roberta Gough, who has run in previous elections as Robert Gough.
The winner will run against the Republican winner and Libertarian Roy Welborn in the Nov. 8 general election.
Cleaver, the former Kansas City mayor first elected to the House in 2004, is seeking his seventh consecutive term in Congress.
Cleaver, a senior whip of the Democratic caucus, also is a member of the House Committee on Financial Services, is the ranking member of the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee and serves in the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. He usually votes with the Democratic Party on a majority of bills.
Cleaver defeated four challengers, including Gough, in the 2014 Democratic primary.
Gough, a 78-year-old former U.S. Army soldier who lives in Lee’s Summit, is a retired math teacher and a former Republican who founded the Jackson County Taxpayer Association in 2000. As Robert Gough, she ran against Graves as a Republican in the 2012 primary and lost. She also ran as Robert Gough for District 48 of the Missouri House of Representatives in 2010 but was defeated in the primary by Gary Cross.
According to the Lee’s Summit Journal, election officials say her new name is legal on the ballot though she has not yet petitioned the court to change her birth name from Robert to Roberta.
Gough said she is running to reduce the “fiscal carnage caused by the recent increase of the federal debt by $2.1 trillion” and is against the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. She also is for term limits.
"At the urging of Obama and the Republican House Speaker, Congress voted to increase our national debt by $2.1 trillion,” she said on her campaign website. “Our Fifth District congressman voted for our country's huge debt limit increase. We need a new independent representative that will reject debt limit increases.”
On the Republican side, Turk of Lee’s Summit is a strong favorite to make another run against Cleaver in November. Turk has won the primary every two years since 2006 but has lost to Cleaver all five times. Turk’s bid in 2014 was the closest so far when Cleaver won by a little more than six points (51.6-45 percent).
He will face Austin Rucker, Berton A. Knox and Michael Burris in the primary Tuesday.
Turk, who served in the Marines, owns his own custom software business and said he is committed to serving small business owners in Congress. He also supports a strong military and will work to repeal Obamacare.
He said he will “work to protect this vital component of our unique free enterprise system that has made our country an economic powerhouse and has lifted more people from poverty than any other economic experiment in history.”
Rucker, also a former Marine who served in Afghanistan and Korea and lives in Kansas City, describes himself as a Christian Constitutional conservative. It is his first time running for office.
“I think it is time to shake things up in Washington and restore voice to the people,” Rucker said on his Facebook page. “It is my goal to be a representative of the people, to serve the people, a philosophy that seems to be lost with today's leaders.”
Knox, who is retired, served in the Navy and became chief engineer of the U.S. Merchant Marines. This is his second try for office after losing to Turk in the 2014 primary. He describes himself on his campaign website as “pro-Constitution and an advocate of free enterprise.”
Burris, who owns a contracting business and lives in Kansas City, says he is not a career politician and is pro-small business and wants local control of education. He is a member of the National Rifle Association. He also ran in the 2014 primary and lost to Turk.
“I will work to unleash the American economy, control spending, fix health care, simplify the tax code, reform education, and strategically leverage America’s vast energy resources,” Burris said on his campaign website.