Rep. Graves on notice: Opponent makes it official

Former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes (D) yesterday made her congressional campaign official, declaring her candidacy to run against Rep. Sam Graves (R) in the Show-Me State’s 6th district.

Barnes recently completed her second term as mayor. Although Democrats have not mounted a serious challenge to Graves since his election in 2000, party officials in Washington say Barnes is just the heavyweight to end the congressman’s tenure.

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Barnes has visited Washington several times this year, beginning with a trip to see her friend, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) get sworn in in January following her 2006 defeat of Sen. Jim Talent (R).

Barnes told The Hill yesterday that she met with Democratic House leaders and has had several conversations with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which pushed hard for the former mayor to run.

“Kay Barnes’s strong roots in rural Northwest Missouri, her independent leadership as Kansas City mayor and her ability to cross party lines to find solutions is a sharp contrast with the intensely partisan Sam Graves, who has been a reliable rubberstamp for the Bush administration’s failed stay-the-course policies in Iraq,” a spokesman for the DCCC, Ryan Rudominer, said.

Barnes said she is confident the DCCC will work diligently to provide resources and help her raise money, a process she begins in earnest with phone calls today.

Barnes added that she has had conversations with McCaskill and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D), and both told her they would campaign vigorously on her behalf.

Barnes kicked off her campaign yesterday in her hometown of St. Joseph, Mo., and continued with a tour of some of the district’s 26 counties in Northwestern Missouri.

The goal of the announcement, conducted in front of the home of her 94-year-old mother, was to showcase Barnes’s experiences in both urban and rural parts of the state.

A spokeswoman for the National Republican Campaign Committee, Julie Shutley, said she and her colleagues are confident Graves will prevail next year, having won by large margins “even in difficult years.”

“And we have no doubt that he will continue to hold his seat,” Shutley said.

In 2006, Graves won the district over Democrat Sara Jo Shettles with nearly 62 percent of the vote, and in 2004, the congressman won with 64 percent.

Democratic officials believe Barnes can reverse that trend because she enjoys name recognition and bipartisan support.

In a press conference last month, Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) said that Barnes showed “commitment and dedication” as mayor that led to making Kansas City “a better place to live and work.”