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Politically Speaking: Rep.-Elect Lavender Discusses Long, Long Road To The Missouri House

Rebecca Smith | St. Louis Public Radio

The Politically Speaking podcast crew this week welcomes a woman who’s literally one of a kind: state Rep-elect Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood.

A physical therapist, Lavender appears to have set a modern-day record in the state by running four consecutive times for the same legislative post before winning.  She lost bids in 2008, 2010 and 2012 to then-incumbent Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood.

Lavender caught the attention of Democratic – and Republican -- leaders after that 2012 bid, when she lost by fewer than 300 votes. With Stream leaving because of term limits, both parties weighed in for and against Lavender this fall.

Despite a blistering TV ad campaign against her, Lavender defeated Republican Gina Jaksetic on Nov. 4 by 444 votes.  Lavender was the only House Democrat in the state to capture a seat that had been held by a Republican. (In the state Senate, Democrat Jill Schupp holds the same honor.)

Credit Rebecca Smith, St. Louis Public Radio

During the podcast, Lavender said:

  • Describing herself as a fiscal conservative, she says that's why she backs Medicaid expansion. She cites the estimated 24,000 jobs that would be added -- as well as the federal aid lost without expansion. “These are federal tax dollars we have already paid to Washington D.C.,’’ and which now are being sent to other states, she said.
  • She is an unapologetic social progressive. “Women’s issues are very important,” she said, adding that many women voters becoming aware that “we are losing a lot of what we spent 100 years gaining” when it comes to women’s rights.
  • Her interests include agriculture, and she has communicated interest in being on the House Agriculture Committee. She also is open to panels dealing with the state budget, education and small business.
  • She acknowledges that House Democrats will be such a small minority and “in a challenging position. I’m interested in what we’ll be able to do.”

Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter@csmcdaniel

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter@jmannies

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter@jrosenbaum

Follow Deb Lavender on Twitter: @DebLavender

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.