Russ Carnahan, son of the former Missouri governor killed in a plane crash while running for the U.S. Senate four years ago, won the Democratic nomination for the House seat being vacated by Dick Gephardt in Tuesday’s election.
His sister, Robin Carnahan, was unopposed in her bid for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state.
With all precincts reporting, Russ Carnahan led a crowded field with 24,500 votes, or 23 percent, advancing to face a Republican who twice lost to Gephardt in the St. Louis-area 3rd District. He edged out Jeff Smith, a Washington University political science lecturer, who had 22,767 votes or 21 percent of the total.
The race had turned nasty in recent weeks as some competitors attacked the 45-year-old Carnahan’s attendance and legislative record, at times calling him the least-qualified of the Democratic contenders. Carnahan accused rivals of misrepresenting his record and trying to damage his name.
On the GOP side, Bill Federer, a St. Louis County resident defeated by Gephardt in 1998 and 2000, won easily with 75 percent of the vote.
No Republican since 1949
Federer faces long odds in November, given that Republicans have not held the seat since 1949.
Carnahan’s father, Mel, was finishing his second term as governor and facing Republican incumbent John Ashcroft in the 2000 U.S. Senate race when he died in a plane crash just weeks before the election. Another Carnahan son, Roger, and an aide also were killed.
Mel Carnahan’s name remained on the ballot and after he outpolled Ashcroft, his widow, Jean Carnahan, was appointed to the Senate seat. She had to stand for election in 2002 and lost to Republican Jim Talent.
Gephardt, retiring in January after 14 terms, did not formally endorse any of his would-be successors.
Robin Carnahan will face Republican Catherine Hanaway, now the speaker of the Missouri House, who was unopposed in the Republican primary.
In another political family link, they are seeking the secretary of state job being vacated by Matt Blunt, son of Rep. Roy Blunt, the third-ranking Republican in the U.S. House. The younger Blunt easily won the GOP nomination for governor and will face state Auditor Claire McCaskill, who upset Gov. Bob Holden in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.