© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Rep. Carnahan's new communications director is half of prominent Democratic behind-the-scenes couple

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 4, 2009 -U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan announced Tuesday that he has hired Sara Howard as his new St. Louis-based director of communications for his congressional operation -- a choice that rekindles her old political ties with the Carnahan family.

Originally from New Jersey, Howard is a well-respected locally based Democratic operative whose first Missouri campaign was as a press aide in 2000 for the U.S. Senate bid of the congressman's father, then-Gov. Mel Carnahan, who went on to win the post despite his death in the Oct. 16 plane crash that also killed trusted aide Chris Sifford and another son, Randy Carnahan.

That campaign acquainted Howard with another key Carnahan aide, Tony Wyche, who has since become her husband.

Wyche (who served as press chief for the governor's widow, Jean Carnahan, while she served in her husband's place in the Senate) runs a St. Louis communications firm, Soapbox Public Relations.

Wyche currently is the campaign spokesman for the congressman's sister, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, who is running for the U.S. Senate next year. Wyche also has been handling public relations for the youngest Carnahan, Tom Carnahan, who heads Wind Capital Group, the firm building the wind farm just outside Jefferson City.

Since 2000, Sara Howard has built a long political resume. She served as communications director for former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., and was the national spokeswoman in 2004 for America Coming Together, a massive independent (and pro-Democratic) effort to register voters around the country. Howard also has been the national media relations chief for the Service Employees International Union, and was among the key operatives in labor's successful 2006 statewide campaign to win voter approval of Proposition B, which increased Missouri’s minimum wage.

Last year, she was the senior state strategist for President Barack Obama’s Missouri campaign and later joined The Vandiver Group, a local strategic communications consulting firm.

In a statement, the congressman praised Howard's "depth of experience,'' while she lauded him as one who "has always stood up for hardworking people who are trying to build a better life for their families..."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.