Skelton loses bid for re-election
A little after 10 p.m. last Tuesday, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton took the podium at his watch party in Lexington to announce his concession as representative of the 4th district to Republican Vicky Hartzler.
Hartzler, of Harrisonville, won the 4th district with 11,993 votes. She received 113,500 votes and Skelton 101,507.
"I was humbled by the vote and grateful for the opportunity to fight for the 4th district in Washington," Hartzler said. "They (voters) are conservative and they want their views and values heard."
Hartzler taught family and consumer science for 11 years in Lebanon. She holds an undergraduate degree from University of Missouri in Columbia and a master's degree from University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.
She represented the 124th district of Missouri for six years, following her teaching career.
"It was truly a joint effort to get me elected," she said. "It's not so much about me, but we."
In Lafayette County, Skelton won the majority. He received 6,610 votes compared to 4,944 for Hartzler.
Skelton was the only opposed Democrat to carry the majority in Lafayette County.
Skelton represented the district for 33 years and many thought he was sure to win another term.
Early last Tuesday evening at Skelton's watch party, the mood was relaxed and conversational. Although Hartzler held a lead for most of the night, Skelton's staff did not foresee any problems. The door to his private area where family, staff and close supporters gathered was open and people were coming and going.
"We still feel good about it," Jason Rauch, a legislative assistant for Skelton said midway through the evening.
All this changed about 30 minutes before 10 p.m. The door closed and few people went in or out.
When Skelton emerged from the room, he was greeted with applause and handshakes. He approached the podium and announced his defeat.
"For 34 years I have had a love affair with the state of Missouri," Skelton said. "That love affair continues. Representing the people in the 4th district has been the political highlight of my life."
"I have enjoyed what I did," he said.
It was a hard fought campaign on both sides. Skelton spent around $2.2 million, far more than any campaign within the last 10 years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Hartzler spent approximately $1.1 million, according to the Federal Elections Commission.
As Skelton announced his defeat, the mood visibly changed at his watch party. Many of his friends and supporters were crying and hugging.
"I'm shocked," Terrie Dishman, a Lafayette County resident, said. "I've known Ike for a long time. I think voters have made a big mistake."
Hartzler said the election represents a "clear choice of the people in the 4th district ... who don't like Nancy Pelosi and who want someone who lives out with the people and has been living with the rules."
She said the major issues Republicans face in 112th Congress, which begins Jan. 3, 2011, are stabilizing the economy and creating more jobs, repealing or stopping funding for the Affordable Care Act and combating unethical political behavior.
"I will be a very strong and vocal voice for the people, to honor and to help them" she said.
A concern raised by many during the campaign was how Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster and U.S. Army Base Fort Leonard Wood would be affected if Skelton lost, since he has done much to support those two bases during his tenure.
Rauch said Skelton received a lot of support from veterans as he was campaigning throughout the district.
"We've heard a lot about what Ike has been doing," Rauch said. "People are appreciative of what he has done."
Hartzler said she brings a "very personal appreciation for the sacrifice of American people."
She said she would like to support and pursue legislation that would improve services for veterans. She noted veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well as women veterans are receiving inadequate care.
"Constituent service is number one," she said. "I will keep an open door and ear to the people of 4th district, so I can represent their views and their values."