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Cunningham, Storch win key legislative contests

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 5, 2008 - State Rep. Jane Cunningham beat Gina Loudon for the Republican nomination for state senate in the 7th district - the seat held by Loudon's husband John. The margin was 46 percent to 38 percent.  Neal St. Onge finished third.

In a brief interview before election results were known, Cunningham once again called property tax relief her top priority. "People are angry, they're frightened, and they need an answer." She also said that education reform remains an issue close to her heart, saying the current public education system is "in crisis," particularly in the St. Louis area.

Cunningham called her campaign "very demanding and sometimes brutal." She added that it was much more expensive than anticipated and got "very, very negative" at the end. She defended the automated robo-calls as necessary to protect herself from attacks by her opponents.

Cunningham also continued to defend Gov. Matt Blunt, who did not run for re-election, and what he has accomplished. "Our economy is holding up better than the rest of the nation."

Distraught about the low voter turnout, Cunningham said, "I would think that with everything we did that we would have gotten the people out. I don't know what else we could have done."

Storch's Surprise Opponent

Missouri state Rep. Rachel Storch, D-64, drew 82 per cent of the vote in her primary against Michael Roberts Jr., whose well-financed challenge had attracted much attention. She's unopposed in the general election.

Storch, who heads the state Democratic legislative campaign effort, had not expected opposition in the primary. But that changed on Tuesday, March 25.

At the last minute that day, Roberts jumped in, filed for election to her seat and proceeded to run an aggressive campaign. He is heir to the Roberts Brothers entertainment and real estate development empires, and his resources are enormous.

At his election watch party early Tuesday night, before the results indicated a stunning defeat of his candidacy, Roberts said his work with the Barack Obama campaign inspired him to run for public office. So inspired, he called home one day, he said, asked what races were open, and the contest for the 64th legislative district looked good. So in he jumped, and as he awaited election results Tuesday evening, he expressed no regrets. 

"It is a beautiful thing being part of the democratic process," he said.

In spite of his declaration of Obama-based inspiration, Roberts' entry into the race was greeted with consternation and no little scratching of heads in Democratic Party circles in general and in the Storch camp particularly. Young Roberts' father and his uncle, Stephen Roberts, both former St. Louis aldermen, were on the Barack Obama bandwagon early on. Storch, however, was steadfast for Sen. Hillary Clinton and was her state campaign director in Missouri.

Was Roberts entering the race a way to punish her for her fidelity to Clinton? There were other rumors, conspiracy theories, and fury at Roberts' unfavorable characterizations of Storch in his advertising campaign. One Storch supporter said it was a waste of the democratic process. Even so, Storch ran a vigorous campaign. She said she regretted spending resources on her campaign that could have been spent fighting Republicans in the general election in November. She was gratified her victory is evidence "you can win without getting into the gutter."

Otherwise, the candidate was generally reserved in comments about her opponent.

Other races

In other local races, Democrat James Trout, a broker and consultant in the building industry, won a closely contested race for the state senate seat in District 15. He led his opponent, Steve Eagleton, nephew of the late Sen. Thomas Eagleton, by 35 votes. Trout will run against Republican Eric Schmitt, who was unopposed in the primary.  

Democrat Steve Brown, a Clayton resident who spent a decade working for the Office of Attorney General under Jay Nixon, won a decisive victory over his opponent, Stacey Newman, for state representative in District 73. He will run against Daniel F. O’Sullivan Jr., Republican, a small business entrepreneur.   

In District 91, two former Webster Groves city council members will be facing off in November for the state representative seat in that district. Republican Randy Jotte, an emergency room physician, and Democrat Jeanne Kirkton, a nurse, will be in contention.

Two well-known Democratic candidates battled to lead their party in the state senate race in District 5. Robin Wright-Jones won a narrow victory over Rodney B. Hubbard in Tuesday’s balloting.  Wright-Jones, a substitute teacher in the city schools, rallied supporters with her demands for more accountability from charter schools.  Wright-Jones will run against Robert Christophel, a Libertarian candidate.