BACKGROUND: You could argue that I was covering the battle over Missouri's Ninth District congressional seat before it was cool.
That's because I was assigned to the race in 2006, which featured a match up between Kenny Hulshof and Duane Burghard that was effectively over before it began. Even though Burghard was arguably a better candidate than previous Democratic challengers, he was underfunded and didn't come close to breaking through in the GOP-leaning congressional district. But you could say that I got hooked on the annual race, as it allowed me to examine a big area with an extensive and fascinating political history.
Things became more interesting when state Rep. Judy Baker waded into the Ninth District race in late 2007. But it wasn't until Hulshof decided not to run again that all electoral hell broke loose.
The Ninth District is unusual, because it has a fairly large bench of potential candidates from both major parties. Two former Democratic statewide officials - Joe Maxwell and Roger Wilson - are from the Ninth. And there are a whole bunch of Republicans who could hypothetically run for the seat. When filing ended, there were five Republicans and four Democrats running.
In essence, the Republican race was between Bob Onder and Blaine Luetkemeyer. And the Democratic contest was between Baker and Steve Gaw. But the other candidates had intriguing roles throughout the primary. Danie Moore, for instance, actually raised enough money to run television and radio advertisements. Lyndon Bode tried to appeal to conservative Democrats who were against abortion rights. Ken Jacob challenged Baker from the left. And there was also a random Republican candidate - Dan Bishir - who didn't really play any role in the campaign.
Despite the drama during the primary, Baker and Luetkemeyer won their primaries fairly easily. Afterward, both national parties promised to invest big money into the Ninth District race. That meant the district was subjected to a deluge of negative ads from both parties, a sure-fire sign of a competitive race. And while the race was indeed close, the Ninth stayed Republican with a Luetkemeyer victory.
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Out of all the races I've covered, the Ninth District featured more interesting candidates, exchanges, controversies, weird events and drama than any other campaign. It brought national attention to a congressional district that few thought about in the realm of competitiveness. And it signaled Blaine Luetkemeyer's comeback from the political abyss.
Alas, redistricting means that it'll be a rare event for U.S. House seats to be regularly contested. Although this year may break that trend, it may become a pretty predictable affair after 2012. So, I'm thankful I got to cover such a wild affair before it becomes boring again.
FUN FACT: Jeff Schaeperkoetter - a Democrat from Gasconade County - nearly ran for the seat. He dropped out, making a Luetkemeyer-Schaeperkoetter match impossible.