( – promoted by Clark)

In a district where the vast majority of local elected officials are Democrats, it appears that the prospect of the first open seat since 1976 isn’t going to be a wasted opportunity.

Roll Call reports (via the Columbia Tribune Politics Blog):

A Democratic source in that state said “credible Democrats will emerge” to run for Congress should Hulshof throw his hat into the wide-open gubernatorial race. Such a scenario may complicate state Rep. Judy Baker’s (D) already slim chances, while offering Democrats the best shot at winning with possible candidates such as former Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell (D) and former state Speaker Steve Gaw (D).

“EMILY’s List would think [Baker’s] done a noble enough job that they’d stay with her, [but] local politicos would abandon her in droves if Maxwell got in,” the Democratic source said. “There’s s a general feeling, ‘God love her for trying to take on Kenny,’ but she’s probably not a great fit for that district.”

The source added: “Maxwell and Gaw are probably better for the cultural leanings of that district.”

So, the prospects?

I say that Maxwell would be a pretty strong favorite to win a primary. He carried the district easily in his last primary (Lt. Governors primary in 2000). He has a strong base in the northern part of the district, and enough prestige to do well in Columbia. Although Maxwell is someone who may still choose to stay out of this race due to his wife (he chose not to run for re-election in 2004 due to his wife’s health)

Steve Gaw would also be formidable to a degree. Gaw also ran statewide in 2000, and lost to Matt Blunt for Secretary of State.

The possibility of the first open seat primary in Northeast Missouri since 1976 is attracting quite a bit of attention.

In 1976, the Democratic primary had 11 candidates and was won by Harold Volkmer of Hannibal with 34.8% (Joe Frappier beat future state senator David Doctorian on the Republican side)

In 1964, the Democratic primary had 16 candidates and was won by William Hungate with 17.65% of the vote. The Republicans had four candidates that year.

But these were primaries back in the days that having an ultradivided August primary wasn’t considered a bad thing. And these were primaries when there was a strong Northeast Missouri base for Democrats in general elections.

So yes, if Hulshof leaves DC.. then there’s going to be a pretty big race in Northeast Missouri.