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Missouri Voters Guide For The Midterm 2018 Election

The polls in Missouri will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. There’s been a lot to keep up on a national and international level, so if you don’t feel quite as informed as you’d like about what’s on Missouri’s ballot, don’t fret.

The following is a rundown of the state’s biggest races — especially that contentious U.S. Senate contest between incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley — plus a breakdown of several major issues that voters will be asked to decide.

Credit Carolina Hidalgo / St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Public Radio
Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley (left) and Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (right) are locked in a tough battle for her seat.

U.S. Senate

McCaskill vs. Hawley is a contest with major implications when it comes to the control of the chamber. She’s looking for her third term in the Senate, and again striking a centrist tone by using the campaign trail to focus on the effects of President Trump’s tariffs, among other things.

Hawley’s rallies skew more populist and skewer McCaskill’s out-of-state fundraising prowess (which KCUR broke down recently), as well as taking on the federal health care law.

U.S. House

U.S. Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (a Democrat who covers Kansas City as well as Lafayette and Ray counties), Sam Graves (a Republican who covers northern Missouri from east to west) and Vicky Hartzler (a Republican whose district encompasses the southern Kansas City suburbs, rural farmland and Mizzou) have been in office for at least two terms — Graves since 2001.

All of them face nominal challengers in their re-election bids. KCUR’s Samuel King looked at their legislative records and asked all of them about their effectiveness in Washington, D.C.

State auditor

Democrat Nicole Galloway has been in the job since she was appointed in 2015 by then-Gov. Jay Nixon. This is the first time Galloway, an attorney, has gone up for a statewide vote, and she’s one of only two Democrats to hold statewide seats.

Galloway’s challenger is Republican Saundra McDowell, a lawyer and former state employee whose personal finances and characterization of her state employment have come under question (read KCUR, The Kansas City Star and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). And the candidates’ only debate was chippy, at best, including name-calling.

Credit Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3 file photo
KCUR 89.3 file photo
Wilson Vance, who works for Raise Up Missouri, canvasses ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

Minimum wage (aka Proposition B)

A year after Missouri instituted a law that stopped cities (including Kansas City and St. Louis) from raising their own minimum wages beyond the state’s baseline of $7.85 an hour, voters will have a say on whether to bump it up to $12 by 2023. The increase would be gradual and the effect widespread, as KCUR’s Andrea Tudhope found out.

Gas tax increase (aka Proposition D)

Missouri last raised its gas tax in 1996, when Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” permeated pop radio, Johnny Damon played his first full MLB season and the U.S. banned leaded fuel. Lawmakers have failed to increase the tax, and voters rejected a transportation-funding ballot measure in 2016.

Now, Missouri finds itself again asking residents whether to gradually raise the gas tax by 10 cents over four years. It’s popular among pretty much every state official. Find out more about the proposed constitutional amendment by revisiting this story by KCUR’s Lisa Rodriguez.

Ethics/redistricting changes (aka Amendment 1)

Whether it’s called “Clean Missouri” or an outright attempt to control redistricting, there’s a lot to dig into with Amendment 1. This proposed constitutional amendment would change the way legislative districts are drawn up in Missouri and overhaul laws relating to lobbyist gifts and open-records laws. (Amendment 1 was the target of a lawsuit earlier this year, KCUR’s Samuel King reported, but the suit was tossed out just days before ballots had to be certified.)

Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media file photo
Harvest Public Media file photo
A marijuana plant.

Medical marijuana

If we had it simple, there’d be just one question about whether to bring medical marijuana to Missouri. But voters will be asked to choose among three: Amendments 2 and 3 (both of which would amend the constitution) and Proposition C (a statute change).

Each ballot measure taxes the drug differently and puts the money toward different things, which KCUR’s Alex Smith detailed here. Missouri wouldn’t be among the vanguard: More than half of U.S. states already have it, including Republican-leaning Arkansas and Oklahoma. Nonetheless, doctors across the country are taught very little about medical marijuana — and it’s still illegal for them to prescribe it.

Missouri Senate

There aren’t many races for the upper chamber of the Missouri General Assembly in this election, but the ones in the Kansas City area are notable.

Credit Missouri Senate, Samuel King
Missouri GOP Sen. Mike Cierpiot (left) is facing a second campaign against Democrat Hillary Shields.

It’s a rematch in the 8th Senate District, which encompasses eastern Jackson County, between incumbent GOP Sen. Mike Cierpiot and Democrat Hillary Shields. Their first matchup was in a 2017 special election, and as KCUR’s Samuel King reported, things have changed.

And in the 34th Senate District in Platte and Buchanan counties, two millennials are vying for the seat being vacated by term-limited GOP rabble-rouser Rob Schaaf, as KCUR’s Brian Ellison found out. The Republican candidate, Tony Luetkemeyer, is a newcomer to running for office, but has deep political roots in Missouri. The Democrat is Martin Rucker, a former Chiefs player who failed in a state House bid in 2016.

Missouri House

It’s a packed ballot when it comes to state House seats, though many established Kansas City-area Democrats — Brandon Ellington, Judy Morgan, Greg Razer to name a few — don’t have challengers. In the Northland, GOP Kevin Corlew is looking to keep his 14th House District seat after losing a Senate bid in June, while Democrat Jon Carpenter is up against Steve West, a Republican who’s gone on anti-Semitic rants on the radio.

Jackson County

If you live here, you’ll be voting on several things, the biggest being seven questions that would bring drastic changes to the county charter — including instituting term limits, upping elected officials’ pay and putting the sheriff in charge of the troubled county jail. Pay attention, because some of the questions contain multiple issues. See the full slate of questions here.

There are two countywide races: sheriff and county executive, and neither appears to be particularly competitive. Incumbent executive Frank White faces Green Party candidate Nathan Kline. And interim Sheriff Darryl Forte is running to finish the term of Mike Sharp, who resigned after a sex scandal. Forte faces former FBI agent and Republican David Bernal.

Credit C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3 file photo
KCUR 89.3 file photo
The Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library.

Kansas City, Missouri

The library levy pays about 90 percent of what it takes to run 10 branches of the Kansas City Public Library. That tax has been the same since 1996, KCUR’s Lisa Rodriguez reported, and library officials say it’s time for an 8-cent bump. But voters will have the final say.

What do you need to vote?

Though Missouri has had a voter ID law for more than a year, one portion of it was thrown out by a judge in early October.

So, on Nov. 6, voters can show an appropriate state-issued license, a U.S. passport or a military ID; OR a document that has your name and address on it (like a utility bill or bank statement); OR can fill out a provisional ballot. To find your polling place, visit the Secretary of State’s website.

Erica Hunzinger is an editor with KCUR and Harvest Public Media. Follow her on Twitter: @ehunzinger.

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Erica Hunzinger is the news editor for the Kansas News Service.
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