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New faces, Owens and Koenen, enter politics while treasurer Williams decides not to run

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 27, 2012 - State Rep. Scott Sifton will run for the 1st district state Senate seat, making the attorney the third Democratic contender seeking to unseat Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay.

Sifton is among several noteworthy entries during Tuesday's final day of candidate filing in Jefferson City.  The others include:

  • Glenn Koenen, longtime executive director of the Circle of Concern food pantry, has filed as a Democratic candidate for the 2nd congressional district. Koenen resigned from his food-pantry post Monday.
  • Mike Owens, lawyer and former TV reporter for KSDK (Channel 5), has filed as a Democrat for the 84th District state House seat. Owens is married to St. Louis Alderwoman Lyda Krewson. State Rep. Karla May, lawyer Hope Whitehead and Samir Mehta also have filed as Democrats for the seat.

Also notable is who did not file: veteran St. Louis Treasurer Larry Williams, who has held the office since 1981 and has been under fire in recent months for "ghost employees" and fiscal questions. 
The treasurer's office had attracted four Democratic challengers, who now will compete among themselves: Aldermen Jeffrey Boyd and Fred Wessels,; city Democratic Party chairman Brian Wahby and state Rep. Tishaura Jones, D-St. Louis.

And as the Beacon noted earlier, state Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, also did not file for re-election.

All told, 510 people filed in Jefferson City for statewide or legislative offices in the state (with another 66 filing for rural judgeships, which are elected). That number does not include candidates for local or regional offices.

Of the Jefferson City tally, 313 were Republicans, 234 were Democrats, with 22 Libertarians and seven from the Constitution Party.

Because of last-minute withdrawals during the last two days, candidate filing for several offices will be extended until Friday. They include Sifton's current House seat in the 93rd District.

Candidates lay out reasons for surprise bids

Said Owens in a Facebook statement: "I've decided to continue a life of advocacy by seeking to serve the public as an elected official. I look forward to an interesting campaign and hope to stand on a lot of porches in the neighborhoods, asking for support."

Sifton, D-Affton, withdrew from a re-election bid in the 93rd and then re-filed to run in the 1st District state Senate post.

Sifton, an attorney with Husch Blackwell, was on the Affton School Board before winning election to a south St. Louis County House seat in 2010. He had previously run unsuccessfully in 2002 against then-state Rep. Kathlyn Fares, R-Webster Groves.

Two other Democrats – former state Reps. Sue Schoemehl, D-Oakville, and Michael Vogt, D-St. Louis County – also have filed for the seat.

Sifton announced endorsements from retired U.S. Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, D-St. Louis; former Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell; state Reps. Jeanne Kírkton, D-Webster Groves, Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights, and Susan Carlson, D-St. Louis; state House Democratic Leader Mike Talboy; and veteran political activist Joyce Aboussie, Gephardt's former national political director. 

The 1st District , which encompasses a chunk of south St. Louis County, is one of the best chances Democrats have to take back a Senate seat. The district became more Democratic after areas of Webster Groves were added.

Although he considered running for other offices, Lembke, R-Lemay, filed for re-election last week. Both Sifton and Vogt could attract campaign donations from attorneys upset with Lembke's bid to change the Missouri nonpartisan court plan.

Start of update: In a telephone interview Tuesday, Sifton said he had received encouragement to run for the seat even before redistricting changed the 1st District. He added that he was "very honored to have received tremendous encouragement and support to make this run."

"I have every belief that I will prevail in the primary and general election," Sifton said. "I believe that Sen. Lembke's actions on the extension of unemployment benefits and on the jobs bill are not representative of the views of the voters of the district. And I believe that will be reflected in the vote total in November. End of update.

As for Koenen, he said in an interview that he decided to run for Congress because "I can bring good old-fashioned St. Louis values to the job."

Koenen, 55, said he has seen an increase in "working poor" during the two decades he's operated the pantry. When he started, the pantry was serving about 200 people a month. Now, it's a couple of thousand, he said.

Many are "working poor," Koenen said, who don't earn enough in their jobs to feed their families. Many also don't have insurance but earn too much for federal help. He said the government needs to do more to expand the middle-class.

Koenen is the best-known of four Democrats running for the 2nd District seat, which takes in parts of west St. Louis County and St. Charles County.

The district is Republican-leaning, and four Republicans have filed. The best-known and best-funded is former U.S. Ambassador Ann Wagner, a Ballwin native who also has garnered most of the major GOP endorsements.

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

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