McCaskill-Akin Senate contest tops Missouri races

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.

The final for-or-against choice is being made by voters 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.

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 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 same 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, Democratic incumbent Jay 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 failing behind its neighboring states.

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.

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