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Gina Mitten's husband may give her inside track in race to succeed Steve Brown

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 28, 2009 - Richmond Heights councilwoman Gina Mitten is among several Democrats -- including Stacey Newman -- who are seeking to fill the 73rd state House seat held by Democrat Steve Brown, who resigned Tuesday after pleading guilty to a felony charge.

Newman is executive director of the political action committee Harriett's List, and lost to Brown in last summer's primary for the 73rd Democratic nomination. Gina Mitten -- a councilwoman for five years and a lawyer in Clayton -- was an early contender for that 2008 legislative contest, but dropped out before candidate filing.

This time, Gina Mitten may have an edge over her rivals because the Hadley Township Democratic committeeman is her husband, Nelson Mitten. Under the weighted formula used by township committeepeople in the 73rd to select the Democratic nominee, Nelson Mitten will cast 34 percent of the votes.

Nelson Mitten, also a Clayton lawyer, emphasized Thursday that he is the duly elected township committeeman and, as such, will simply be exercising his statutory role in helping to select his party's nominee for the Nov. 3 special election set for filling Brown's vacancy.

"I will vote for whom I believe is the best qualified,'' he said. But Nelson Mitten also acknowledged that it's "a pretty good assumption'' that he's leaning toward his wife.

Gina Mitten said, "I know some people are trying to make hay out this,'' and added that "if I had my druthers, I would prefer that he not'' have such a prominent role in selecting the 73rd District nominee.

But she noted that the selection process is set by state law.

By law, the three townships in the 73rd District each get a share of the candidate-nomination votes based on the turnout for governor last year. Each party's township committeeman and committeewoman -- last elected in last summer's primaries -- will cast the nomination votes.

Under that formula, Hadley Township's two committeepeople in each party will wield 68 percent of the votes (34 percent apiece) to determine their party's nominee. For the Democrats, those committeepeople are Nelson Mitten and Susan Carlson.

The two committeepeople in Clayton Township will cast 28 percent of the nomination votes, and their counterparts in Jefferson Township will provide the remaining 4 percent.

Newman would say only, "I respect the process."

Nelson Mitten said that at least four other Democrats have inquired about making a bid for the 73rd: Deb Dubin, Rhea Beck Kleeman, Harold Sanger and Paul Lore.

The winning candidate will need to snag a majority of the nomination votes, which Nelson Mitten said underscored that any of the contenders have a chance.

In any case, the three townships' committeepeople are to make their decision shortly. Nelson Mitten expects the vote to select the Democratic nominee to take place by Sept. 8.

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.