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Tough fight on both sides

ELECTION 2006: BATTLE FOR THE SENATE

Missouri divides on an issue

A ballot measure in support of stem cell research drives voter turnout in hard-fought Senate race.

November 08, 2006|P.J. Huffstutter | Times Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS — Sarah Cliffers walked into the polling station at Busch AAA Middle School on Tuesday morning with one goal in mind: to help preserve the Republican dominance in Missouri by voting to reelect Sen. Jim Talent.

"The Show Me State will never go blue," said 42-year-old Cliffers. "We'll never support abortion. We'll never support stem cell research."

Standing ahead of Cliffers in the long line, Brandon Hiller was equally determined: He wanted to get Democrat Claire McCaskill, into the Senate.

"We need a change," said Hiller, 38. "I'm tired of Republicans and Republican values."

With polls leading up to election day showing the race too close to call, Talent, 50, focused mostly on rural parts of southern Missouri. McCaskill, 53, spent her last campaign day traveling across Missouri, stopping at polling stations and grocery stores to thank volunteers and make last-minute pitches.

After one of the nation's mostly hotly contested Senate races -- involving millions of dollars on attack ads and exhaustive campaigning -- voters here remained fiercely divided Tuesday over the political future of their state. And what brought many to the polls had as much to do with party loyalty as with a ballot measure to amend the state constitution to allow, but set limits on, stem cell research.

McCaskill supports the amendment; Talent opposes it.

In the end, McCaskill won by a narrow margin. Talent called her shortly after 1 a.m. CST and conceded.

"All of our efforts fell short this time," Talent told a tearful crowd gathered inside a ballroom at the Hilton St. Louis Frontenac. "Without your support, we couldn't have made it this close."

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p.j.huffstutter@latimes.com

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