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Oxford enters increasingly crowded 5th District Senate race

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 22, 2012 - State Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford has filed to run for the Missouri Senate, making the Democratic primary for St. Louis' 5th District seat even more crowded.

Oxford – a Democrat who cannot run for the Missouri House again because of term limits – officially filed for the 5th District race on Thursday at the Missouri secretary of state’s office.

She will face off against incumbent state Sen. Robin Wright-Jones, D-St. Louis, state Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, and St. Louis City School Board member Bill Haas.

“I think largely a lot of folks over time kept coming to me saying ‘we really need someone like you in the Senate, please consider running,’” Oxford said in a telephone interview. “And I was very resistant at first. But after people ask you enough times, you start to think, ‘Well, why am I not even giving this a chance? Why I am I just ruling it out automatically?’ And I looked to whether there was someone I could get behind enthusiastically.

“Even though there are many things I appreciate and love about each person that’s in the race besides myself, I thought the voters of the 5th needed another alternative who has the kind of record that I have,” Oxford added. “I decided to offer myself and see what happens."

Oxford first burst into the local political scene in 2000 when she almost defeated Russ Carnahan in his first run for the 59th District House seat. After Carnahan decided to run for Congress in 2004, Oxford ran for and won election in the district that includes Soulard and Benton Park. Her election made her the first openly lesbian member of the Missouri General Assembly.

Before she was elected to office, Oxford served as the executive director of Reform Organization of Welfare and the founder of Coalition Against Public Funding for Stadiums. She was a former member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the American Postal Workers Union, and currently pays dues to the State Workers Union (CWA Local 6355).

In the legislature, Oxford has been a proponent for environmental issues, abortion rights and anti-smoking initiatives. She's championed legislation requiring hospitals and health care facilities to provide emergency contraception to sexual assault victims.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.