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Schweich posts unexpectedly strong win for auditor; Prop C wins big

Peter Kinder primary election night 2010
Rachel Heidenry | 2010 | St. Louis Beacon

Proposition C won handily Tuesday, as Missouri voters went to the polls for the state's primary that sets the table for this fall's elections.

The biggest surprise was Republican state auditor candidate Tom Schweich's unexpectedly strong victory over rival Allen Icet, after polls had shown them neck and neck.

Proposition C seeks to exempt Missouri from some of the new federal health-care mandates, although both sides agree a legal battle is expected.

But more than 70 percent of the state's primary voters backed the measure, which GOP backers assert will send a national message. Far more Republicans cast ballots than Democrats Tuesday, drawn by the larger number of GOP primary contests statewide and around the state.

“Tonight is a historic night,” said Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder. “Missourians have the distinction of being the first Americans to go to the ballot box and reject the reckless federal health care takeover. From Massachusetts to Virginia to Missouri, voters are rejecting the extreme liberal agenda being forced upon our nation by an out-of-control federal government.”

“Missourians have sent Washington a clear message: stay out of our health-care decisions,” said state Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield and one of Proposition C's authors. “Washington liberals didn’t listen when they rammed through Congress their reckless health care bill — but they can’t help but hear us now.”

Ryan Hobart, spokesman for the state Democratic Party -- which had avoided taking a stance onProposition C -- still sought to dismiss its approval.

"This proposition is a meaningless and unconstitutional political ploy by those who want to go back to the days when insurance companies could deny coverage for families with preexisting conditions and charge exorbitant premiums," Hobart said. "The proposition will have no legal impact, which is why the Democratic Party’s focus this fall will be on electing Democratic candidates who share our vision of turning around this economy not engaging in pointless political games."

Missouri is the first of several states to vote on the proposal, which seeks to block the federal requirement that all Americans buy health insurance by 2014. Republican supporters say the requirement unfairly curbs personal freedom and states' rights. The Missouri Hospital Association contends that a lack of such a mandate will increase the costs for people who do have insurance.

(Click herefor the latest count regarding the ballot issue.)

In the Republican battle for state auditor, Schweich ended up getting close to 60 percent of the GOP vote in his contest with Icet, a state legislator from Wildwood.

Schweich -- a former member of the Bush administration -- had been supported by many of the state's top Republicans, including Kinder, former U.S. Sen. John Danforth and former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Schweich had gathered with a small group of supporters at J. Buck's in Clayon. He said in an interview that his objective now will be "to work to earn every vote'' this fall. He declined to discuss his Democratic opponent, state Auditor Susan Montee, who handily won her party's primary in her quest for a second term.

Icet said in his concession statement that he was proud of his campaign, and called on all Republicans to back Schweich. "I congratulate Tom Schweich on his victory and wish him well as he continues his campaign into the fall," Icet said.

And in the city of St. Louis, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, the St. Louis school bond issue known as Proposition S won by a ratio of 3-to-1.

Blunt and Carnahan win Senate races

In the U.S. Senate race, Missouri's two best-known candidates -- Democrat Robin Carnahan and Republican Roy Blunt -- cruised to easy victories for their respective party nods.

For Carnahan and Blunt, their battle Tuesday was for bragging rights: which one got a larger percentage of their party's vote, and which one collected more votes.

Nearly complete returns saw Carnahan, the current secretary of state, with a much larger percentage: 83.8 percent of the statewide Democratic vote. Blunt, who had spirited primary opposition, got 70.9 percent of the GOP vote. But because far more GOP votes were cast , Blunt amassed far more votes than Carnahan.

The national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee issued an early statement lauding Carnahan's victory, and blasting Blunt. The state Republican Party countered with the same, in reverse: praise for Blunt, jabs at Carnahan.

Carnahan said in a brief telephone interview that the results for both set up "a very clear choice for the general election."

The choice for voters, she says, is between "my record of stepping up for Missourians every single day" and what she asserted was Blunt's 14 years in Congress representing special interests more than average people.

The Missouri Republican Party disagrees, asserting in a statement that "the success of Prop C will shape the race for United States Senate" because of Carnahan's opposition.

“The federal government’s takeover of our health care system is going to be a defining issue in the U.S. Senate campaign,” said state GOP chairman David Cole.

Blunt and the GOP have contended the contrast is between his stand in favor of conservative principles and free-market values, and Carnahan's general support for President Barack Obama and the Democrats running Congress.

Blunt said in his victory speech that he would attack "not enough jobs, too much government spending, too much government interference."

The big issue to be decided in November, he said, was "whether the government is bigger than the people or the people are bigger than the government."

Although Proposition C is a state issue, Republicans in particular have been attempting to tie it to the U.S. Senate contest. Blunt backed the proposition, while Carnahan did not.

She said Tuesday night that she did not see a link. The real health care contrast, said Carnahan, is Blunt's continued support for insurance companies, and her opposition to some of their abuses. "He's the guy who wants to get rid of Medicare," she said, adding that Blunt also blames people -- not insurers -- when they are refused coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

Blunt ignored his chief primary opponent, state Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield. Purgason -- who amassed less than 14 percent of the statewide vote -- said he did not regret his candidacy: "I ran because I believe in the values of the Republican party and I felt the Republican party has forgotten what we stand for."

Auditor's contest and the Tea Party effect

In the state auditor races, Schweich and Icet's neck-and-neck contest was for the right to challenge incumbent Democrat Susan Montee, who won her primary handily.

The GOP statewide numbers, for the U.S. Senate and state auditor, are being closely monitored for the "Tea Party effect."

Many state Tea Party groups, while officially neutral, unofficially favored state Purgason. But he ended up snagging just 13.1 percent of the statewide GOP vote.

In the auditor's race, Icet and Schweich had been both vying for the Tea Party vote. Still, some activists viewed Icet more favorably, because he more openly bashed the Democrats controlling Washington.

Key state senate contests mainly tight

Locally, results in St. Louis County and its neighbors signaled interesting developments in four key state Senate contests.

-- In the 14th District's Democratic primary, state Rep. Maria Chapelle-Nadal of University City held an edge in the four-person Democratic field. The victor will get the seat because no other parties have candidates.

-- In the 24th District's Democratic primary, which takes in central St. Louis County, County Councilwoman Barbara Fraser won big over former state Rep. Sam Page. The winner faces Republican John Lamping in November.

-- In the 26th District's GOP primary, which includes parts of St. Louis and Franklin counties, state Rep. Brian Nieves of Washington, Mo., appeared to be the winner over former state Rep. Jack Jackson of Wildwood, former Washington, Mo., mayor Dick Stratman, and Donald Meyer.

-- In St. Charles County, in the 2nd state Senate district's Republican contest, incumbent Scott Rupp defeated challenger Cynthia Davis -- a state legislator and Tea Party favorite -- by 54-46 percent.

Also in St. Louis County, voters approved a proposal for an elected assessor by a ratio of 3-1. 

In St. Louis County's only competitive County Council primary, in the 5th District, Democrat and former Richmond Heights councilman Pat Dolan defeated former Webster Groves Mayor Terri Williams.

In Jefferson County, the current elected assessor -- Randy Holman -- easily ousted County Executive Chuck Banks in the Democratic primary. Holman captured almost 70 percent of the vote in a contest that had centered, in part, on assertions that Banks was too difficult to work with. Holman will face Republican Ken Waller -- who handily won his own primary -- in November.

St. Louis and State House incumbents may be out

In the city of St. Louis, complete returns showed that Circuit Clerk Mariano Favazza lost his job to lawyer Jane Schweitzer, daughter-in-law of the late former Sheriff Gordon Schweitzer. Favazza, in office since 1999, has been a frequent target of city Democratic leaders, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay also backed Schweitzer. Slay appeared to be quite successful with his last-minute endorsements.

Meanwhile, several area state House members appeared to be in trouble, according to late returns:

-- State Rep. James T. Morris, D-St. Louis, lost his 58th District seat to fellow Democrat Penny Hubbard, mother of former state Rep. Rodney Hubbard.

-- State Rep. Hope Whitehead, D-St. Louis, lost her rematch against Democratic activist Karla May in the 57th District by 38 votes.

May and Hubbard both had the support of Slay.

Slay's preferred choice in the 64th House District, lawyer Susan Carlson, registered an easy win in the crowded Democrat contest to succeed incumbent Rachel Storch, who is retiring.

Congressional races bring no surprises

The congressional contests saw no surprises. In the 1st District, incumbent Democrat Lacy Clay now will face Republican Robyn Hamlin and Libertarian Julie Stone, winners of their respective primaries.

In the 2nd District, Republican incumbent Todd Akin of Town and Country snagged more than 80 percent of his party's votes. He will face Democrat Arthur Lieber and Libertarian Steve Mosbacher.

In the 3rd District, Democratic incumbent Russ Carnahan of St. Louis also handily won. His Republican opponent is lawyer Ed Martin, who knocked off two competitors. The victors will face Libertarian Steven Hedrick and Constitution Party nominee Nicholas Ivanovich.

Carnahan and Martin already are sparring over debates, although both agree they want at least two.

Dale Singer, Lauren Weber, Rachel Heidenry and Patrick Sullilvan of the Beacon staff provided information for this story.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.