Congressman Ike Skelton (D)

West Central Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton has held the House seat for the 4th District since 1977, but he’s facing a strong challenge from Republican Vicky Hartzler in next week’s election.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report out of Washington DC says the race is close enough to be considered a ‘toss up.’ Skelton says recent polls showing a close race don’t concern him.

“No I don’t believe those polls because my poll, which is done by one of the best pollsters in America, shows that I have a comfortable lead,” Skelton said.

Vicky Hartzler (R)

Hartzler’s got a similar, but opposite view…

“I think we’re going to see a big change next week. Our polling actually shows us in the lead, fairly significantly, and we believe that we’re just going to continue strong through the finish line next week,” Hartzler said.

Hartzler says the time is right for Republicans to take the 4th District seat from Skelton, because Missourians are fed up.

“Our district is very conservative. We’re a 56% Republican district and here you have our representative taking our vote to Washington D.C. and casting it for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker four times, and then squandering our vote by voting for her agenda 95% of the time,” Hartzler said.

But Skelton says that number is misleading, and he represents his district’s values.

“The biggest vote of the year, of course, was the ‘Obamacare,’ health care bill. I voted against it as well as other measures the party was pushing. I’m a very independent voter and it’s a campaign tactic. It’s just not going to work, because people know I’m an independent voter,” Skelton said.

He says it’s clear what his constituents are concerned about.

“The biggest issue, of course, is the economy. In our district we’re very blessed to have about 40,000 jobs that are dependent on Whiteman Air Force Base and Ft. Leonard Wood and needless to say I’ve been working very hard to not only keep those bases afloat but add to them through the years,” Skelton said.

Hartzler had a similar answer for the question of what issue she thought Missourians put first.

“Jobs. People in the 4th District are hurting. We have almost a 10% unemployment rate in the 4th District and everything they’re doing in Washington is killing jobs. Unfortunately my opponent has enabled and supported all of those initiatives,” Hartzler said.

Should Hartzler defeat Skelton, the state’s military bases would be losing his support as the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. He says that would come at an important time.

“Candidates and incumbents are talking about a new base-closing commission. Of course if that happens everything is on the table; every base is on the table. I would be there to protect it. I did that once before when there was s serious threat to close down Ft. Leonard Wood, and I would do it again,” Skelton said.

Meantime, Hartzler says the results of their race won’t impact that chairmanship.

“I believe he won’t be chairman next year anyway, as the Republicans all across the country are expected to take back the House of Representatives. So he won’t be in that position. But yet leader John Boehner, the leader of the Republicans, has pledged that should I win, he will secure a seat for me on that committee,” Hartzler said.

Hartzler says she would be a strong voice for Missouri’s military bases on that committee.

Listen to the interviews below to hear more from each of the candidates. Both candidates voiced their opposition to the health care reform passed this year, and their support for the 2nd Amendment.

They also discussed the tone of the campaign, and gave their impressions of what would happen if the Republicans were able to take control of the House by winning enough seats nationwide in next Tuesday’s election.

AUDIO: Complete Vicky Hartzler interview [11 min MP3]

AUDIO: Complete Ike Skelton interview [9 min MP3]

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]