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Political Heavyweights Cunningham, McNary Clash In Race For... Monarch Fire Board?

Missouri Senate Official Website (Cunningham) and Flickr/KOMU News (McNary)

On Tuesday, two political heavyweights will go head to head after a hard-fought campaign in which tens of thousands of dollars have been spent. The office they’re attacking each other over? A seat on the Monarch Fire Protection District Board in West St. Louis County.

You might remember Cole McNary from his failed bid for state treasurer a few months ago – or from his father, former St. Louis County Executive Gene McNary. You might remember Jane Cunningham for her reputation as being one of the most conservative members of the Missouri House.

Political Scientist Dave Robertson with the University of Missouri-St. Louis says the reason they’re running for this low-profile office is clear.

“Because it’s open," Robertson said, laughing. "And we won’t have elections for Missouri legislature until next year.”

Although both are Republicans, and although the spot on the board is supposed to be nonpartisan, the race has largely been heated with Cunningham calling McNary a union candidate, and McNary saying Cunningham would make the office too political. Normally the race for a spot on the Monarch Fire Protection District Board in West St. Louis County, which oversees about 125 employees, isn’t very partisan or publicized. The office will likely be a stepping stone for the winner.

“What’s so unusual is that the office is so low profile, and would not be able to generate the publicity that leaders like Jane Cunningham and Cole McNary are used to in their other runs for office.”

As the St. Louis Beacon has reported, pay for the job is only about $200 a meeting. Cunningham has already spent $23,600 on the race, equivalent to roughly 5 year's worth of compensation.

Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter@csmcdaniel