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Clay tops Carnahan in second member-versus-member contest of the night in Missouri

Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr., D-Mo., defeated fellow Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., on Tuesday in the latest of a series of intra-party turf wars spurred by redistricting.

Carnahan, who sought a fifth term, was drawn out of his current district due to Missouri’s slow population growth over the last decade. He ran against Clay, who has served since 2001, over another open but Republican-leaning district. But the incumbent-on-incumbent race – with tensions already running high – became especially thorny as the issue of race emerged in the campaign. 

Carnahan, who is white, faced Clay, who is African-American, in a St. Louis-area district with a historically large black population. The newly drawn district includes nearly 70 percent of the same territory Clay currently represents. But parts of Carnahan’s old district amounted to about a third of the new area represented by the First District. 

The district Carnahan represented was eliminated by the Republican-controlled state legislature as it redrew the state’s electoral map. Carnahan succeeded former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., who retired amid a second White House bid. The 2004 nominating contest makes Carnahan no stranger to tough primaries: He narrowly edged out nine other Democratic candidates to take Gephardt's place. 

Clay succeeded his father, former Rep. Bill Clay Sr., who retired in 2001 after 32 years in the House of Representatives. 

Carnahan also hails from a Missouri political dynasty that began with his grandfather, former Rep. A.S.J. Carnahan, D-Mo., who served in the House of Representatives for 14 years.  The current Congressman is also the son of Mel Carnahan, who served as Missouri governor from 1993 to 2000. And Carnahan’s mother, Jean Carnahan, was briefly appointed to the Senate in 2001 after her husband won the seat posthumously. Additionally, Carnahan’s sister, Robin, has served as the Missouri secretary of state since 2005.

Clay touted high-profile support from Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, both Democrats Meanwhile, Carnahan won key endorsements from unions such as the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police.

But Carnahan had accumulated more cash in his campaign war chest as of mid-July. He reported $229,000 in the bank while Clay had about $217,000 on hand.

Carnahan becomes the sixth House incumbent to fall this year in brutal member-versus-member primaries and the tenth incumbent to lose overall.