Republicans have taken direct aim at a difficult target: unseating Missouri’s senior member of Congress.

Former State Representative Vicky Hartzler of Harrisonville won a nine-person race in the Republican primary, gaining 40% of the vote. Her next closest competitor was State Senator Bill Stouffer of Napton who won 30% of the vote. No other candidate broke into double digits.

“I think it was just a grassroots team that we were able to put together of people who are fed up with their current vote in Congress of Ike Skelton that’s going to Nancy Pelosi 95% of the time,” Hartzler says in an interview with the Missourinet.

Republicans have latched on to that number, claiming Congressman Ike Skelton, a Democrat from Lexington, has drifted from his conservative roots, willing to support the federal stimulus bill as well as cap-and-trade legislation to secure his chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee.

Skelton rejects the critique.

“Well, it’s not true,” Skelton tells the Missourinet. “As a matter of fact, I reflect the values of the district I represent, the values of Missouri, small-town values.”

Skelton insists he’s an effective, independent voice for the district. Skelton, first elected to Congress in 1976, is seeking his 18th term in Congress.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:60 MP3]