JEFFERSON CITY - The effects of term limits, passed by Missouri voters in 1992, will soon be felt in Columbia as two members of the same party are pitted against each other.
Reps. Chuck Graham and Tim Harlan, both D-Columbia, said Wednesday that they plan to run for the same Senate seat in 2004, currently occupied by Ken Jacob. Graham has represented the area since 1997, so term limits will make 2004 his last possible year in the House. Harlan has represented the area since 1994, making this his last year in the House.
Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, also D-Columbia, said she has not yet decided on the Senate seat, but will concentrate on getting re-elected to the House this fall.
"The first thing I'm going to do is win re-election for my House seat," Wilson said. "I'm looking very seriously at (running for the Senate). I have lots of people encouraging me to run, but I'm keeping my sights set on the House right now."
In 1992, Missouri voters passed a constitutional amendment that limits legislators to no more than eight years in either chamber.
Graham said he will run for re-election to the House in November. If he wins that election, he said he will run for party floor leader, a leadership role.
Harlan said he expects to spend the next two years in the private sector continuing to work on health insurance, his major issue in the House.
"I have been asked by a lot of people in Columbia to consider the Senate seat," Harlan said.
Graham said he thinks this is part of the problem with term limits, when several good candidates cannot run for re-election and have to run for higher office.
"I've never thought it was good that we have term limits, I think (term limits are) called elections," Graham said. "I work very well with Vicky and Tim and they're great legislators, each one of them, but only one of the three is going to survive, possibly."
Graham and Harlan were both quick in saying that three years is a long way in the future, so their election situation could change.
Rep. Ted Farnen, D-Mexico, offered some insight on a possible Graham-Harlan showdown.
"My part of Boone County, which includes Centralia, Sturgeon, Hallsville and a little bit of north Columbia, I think it leans a little more conservative," Farnen said. "My guess is they would lean to a candidate who has experience with representing rural voters."
Farnen said he could not predict what voters in his part of the county would do. But he noted that his part of the district tends to lean more conservative than Harlan or Wilson.
When asked what he expected in upcoming elections, Graham said Boone County politics is hard to predict. He pointed out the differences between state Sen. Ken Jacob, staunch Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, a firm Republican.
Graham also said he thinks this fall will bring Democratic voters out in larger numbers than usual, thanks to their all-women ticket. Jean Carnahan is running to finish her term in the U.S. Senate, and Claire McCaskill is running for a second term as state Auditor. Higher Democratic turnout would help Graham's chances of reelection to the House, he said.
"As someone running for leadership, one of my jobs is to go out and recruit candidates. And if we get good candidates, we're going to retain the majority," Graham said.