Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill has highlighted lots of things that Republican congressman Todd Akin is against as she seeks to retain her Missouri U.S. Senate seat in Tuesday's elections.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill has highlighted lots of things that Republican congressman Todd Akin is against as she seeks to retain her Missouri U.S. Senate seat in Tuesday's elections. Akin has emphasized the things McCaskill is for as he seeks to oust her from office. Voters began making the final for-or-against choice Tuesday at 16,504 polling places across Missouri. Missouri's nationally watched U.S. Senate race has commanded much of the public's attention this year, filling the gap left by an absence of campaigning in Missouri by either Democratic President Barack Obama or Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The Senate race also has overshadowed a large number of down-ballot races, including contests for governor, four other statewide executive offices, scores of federal and state legislative seats, various judges and local county officials. "I'm hoping for a better change ... It seems like everything is going downhill," said Blake Bopp, a 28-year-old electrical lineman from Jefferson City who voted for Romney and other Republicans. He particularly cited frustration over Obama's health care law and the federal bailout of the auto industry. Rose Johnson, 23, of Kansas City, who works in background checks, said she voted for "mostly Democrats," including Obama, Sen. Claire McCaskill and Gov. Jay Nixon, and those she found "the least offensive." "I voted for President Obama because I feel that's the only way I'd be protected as a woman. I don't agree with anyone who changes their mind in the middle of a sentence, and Romney has gone there," Johnson said. "I'm just saying Obama was able to show himself as a person and everyone else was overly scripted." Because of redistricting after the 2010 census, Missouri will be electing just eight member of Congress instead of nine. For the first time in three decades, Missouri lost a seat in the U.S. House because its population failed to keep pace with other faster-growing states. Besides the many candidates, Missouri voters also face several policy choices on Tuesday's ballot. Do they want to raise the state's lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax, with proceeds benefiting education and anti-tobacco initiatives? Do they want to change the commission responsible for nominating Missouri's top judges? There also are ballot questions relating to the implementation of Obama's health care law in Missouri and the governing body for the St. Louis police department. In the U.S. Senate race, the choice may boil down to whether voters are more frustrated with McCaskill for the things she has supported or more fearful about Akin because of the things he opposes. McCaskill is hoping voters will be swayed by Akin's opposition to such things as federal student loans, the minimum wage and emergency contraception for rape victims. She's been reminding voters in TV ads of Akin's mid-August response when he was asked whether abortion should legal for rape victims. While explaining his opposition to abortion, Akin said that pregnancy in rape is "really rare," because "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Although he apologized, the comment cost him the support of Romney and some other top national Republicans. Akin stood in line for more than 30 minutes early Tuesday before voting along with his wife, Lulli, and his son, Wynn, at Star Bridge Christian Center in Wildwood. McCaskill voted Tuesday morning with her husband and daughter at the Kirkwood Community center. The race was expected to be close and early voter reactions were divided. "I'm a Republican, but I thought she was better than that Todd Akin. I didn't like his comment about getting raped," said Dorothy Gilpin, a 72-year-old retiree from Jefferson City who voted for Romney but split her ticket and backed McCaskill and Nixon. Erica White, a 39-year-old Jefferson City nurse, said she voted for Akin despite not liking some of the things he said. "I believe in the Republican Party and I feel like we need to get control" of the Senate, White said. Akin is hoping voters will be swayed less by what he describes as "my six-second mistake" and more by McCaskill's close ties to Obama and her family's links to federal money. Akin has highlighted McCaskill's support for Obama's 2010 health care law, a key part of which he notes was rejected by 71 percent of Missouri voters later that year. He also has highlighted McCaskill's support for the 2009 stimulus act, noting that low-income housing firms affiliated with McCaskill's husband have benefited from stimulus funding. In Missouri's gubernatorial race, Nixon is seeking to become the first governor to win a second term since Democrat Mel Carnahan in 1996. Nixon faces Republican businessman Dave Spence, who his making his first political race. Their contest has focused largely on the economy. Nixon asserts that Missouri is "moving forward" under his steady leadership. Spence asserts that Missouri is falling behind neighboring states. Spence voted early Tuesday along with his wife and children at a St. Louis County library near their home in Warson Woods. He said after traveling about 75,000 miles and attending hundreds of events, it's hard to believe that a year of campaigning has ended. "That's a lot of green beans, roast beef and chicken," he joked. Nixon was scheduled to vote later Tuesday morning in Jefferson City. In other races, Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is seeking a third term against Democrat Susan Montee, a former state auditor. Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster faces a challenge from Republican attorney Ed Martin, and Democratic Treasurer Clint Zweifel is opposed by Republican state Rep. Cole McNary. Two state House members are seeking to succeed Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, who is not running for re-election. Those contestants are Republican Rep. Shane Schoeller, of Willard, and Democratic Rep. Jason Kander, of Kansas City.