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Newman edges Carlson in redo election for 87th District House seat

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 24, 2012 - State Rep. Stacey Newman will return to the Missouri House next year after emerging victorious in a redo election in the 87th state House District.

And this time around, she won by a margin greater than one vote.

The Richmond Heights Democrat defeated state Rep. Susan Carlson by 1,861 to 1,766. 

Since no Republicans filed for the heavily Democratic state House district, Newman is assured to return to Jefferson City next year.

“I’m just so gratified by the solid support of the voters in the 87th District," said Newman in a telephone interview. "I had to ask them to not just come vote once but to come vote twice. And that shows you that there’s solid support, which I’m so grateful for.”

The battle for the district that encompasses parts of Clayton, Richmond Heights, Brentwood, Ladue and University City was already unusual. That’s because two incumbents drawn into the same House district decided to stay put, prompting a primary between two Democrats with similar views.

But the matchup became even stranger after Newman won the primary by one vote. Then the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners found irregularities soon after the results were announced. After a lengthy hearing in August, St. Louis County Circuit Judge Michael Jamison ordered a new election.

Those unprecedented circumstances, Newman said, prompted her campaign to kick into overdrive.

"Once the judge ordered the new election, I picked up immediately. I had a huge list of supporters and it was just solid voter contact," Newman said.

"Because there's so many things to inform: That there was another election, why there's another election, why they need to come back out and then, of course, why they needed to hopefully come back out for me. It was a lot hard work -- really extensive voting contact," she said.

The redo gave both candidates a short time to restate their core messages. Newman, for instance, presented herself as a steadfast opponent to the Republican majority, vowing to oppose strenuously efforts to curb abortion rights, implement photo identification requirements and alter teacher tenure.

While Carlson also held those views, she emphasized her role on powerful committees and noted her expertise as an attorney, which could help change legislation for the better.

In an interview, Carlson said she was disappointed with the result. But she said she called her opponent "and congratulated her and wished her all the best."

“We were amazed that so many people in this community came out to vote today," Carlson said. "The turnout for a special election on a Monday was much higher than a lot of us expected.”

On the surface, turnout for the Monday election was low – about 15.12 percent of registered voters in the district. Rita Days, the Democratic director for the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners, said she went to a few of the polling places during the day and didn’t find many people there.

“They were very, very sparse,” said Days before the polls closed. “Disappointingly, but that’s what I saw.”

But roughly the same number of people voted yesterday as in the August primary -- 3,633 came out for the Monday election while 3,645 people voted in  in August.

Newman said that shows people in the district, home to Washington University and the St. Louis County Government Center, are engaged.

"The voters in this district are educated. They’re aware. They’re tuned in. They’re listening to the messages. They’re taking their votes very seriously," Newman said. "So I think it’s a credit to the district, really, that they’re willing to come back out again.”

Asked about her political future, Carlson, who won a crowded Democratic primary in 2010 to claim her seat, said: “I’m going to rest. I’m going to visit my 94-year-old mother more than I’ve been able to. Then I’ll figure what else. And I’ll go back to my law practice and figure out what else is next.”

As for Newman, she said she'll spend the next few weeks helping out other candidates. And she'll spend some of her next term diving into election law, especially since she's a member of the House Election Committee.

But Newman -- who quipped that she planned"to spend a little time reintroducing myself to my family" -- said she's hoping most of all that her next election is a bit more tranquil. Newman came up short in 2008 against Democrat Steve Brown but later won a special election in 2009 to replace Brown after he resigned.

"What this all has taught me is: You never know what is around the corner," Newman said. "I can't predict it. I hope that maybe my election experience becomes a little more normal. That's what I would hope for. But I also attribute my success tonight to the voters because they're the ones that hired me. And they're the ones that I communicated with. It's their faith in me and my service as their representatives that really should be acknowledged." 

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