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Missouri Rep. Deb Lavender On Her High-Stakes Push To Turn 15th District Blue

State Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, speaks on the House floor on May 15, 2020, the final day of 2020 session of the Missouri General Assembly.
Tim Bommel
House Communications
State Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, speaks on the House floor on May 15, the final day of 2020 regular session of the Missouri General Assembly.

State Rep. Deb Lavender is the latest guest on the Politically Speaking podcast, where she talks with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum about running in the 15th Senate District.

The district takes in portions of south central and southwest St. Louis County, which includes Kirkwood, Ballwin, Manchester, Twin Oaks and Valley Park. Lavender is squaring off against Sen. Andrew Koenig, a Manchester Republican who won the seat in 2016 by nearly 20 percentage points.

Koenig is slated to record an episode of Politically Speaking in October.

Here’s what Lavender talked about on the show:

  • Missouri’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, including whether the state should implement a mask mandate. Gov. Mike Parson has decided against such a move, while his Democratic opponent, state Auditor Nicole Galloway, has backed it.
  • Whether the Legislature could provide any guidance for schools struggling to decide whether to teach students in person or virtually this year due to the pandemic.
  • The successful ballot initiative to expand Medicaid, which she supported. And she talked about how she would follow through on that constitutional amendment if she were elected to the Senate.
  • Koenig's sponsorship of legislation that banned most abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy, which is one of the reasons Lavender jumped into the race. She explained why she opposed that measure, which is currently being challenged in court.

Lavender is a physical therapist who garnered a reputation for persistence, running for the House in 2008, 2010 and 2012, losing each time to then-incumbent Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood.

When Stream had to leave the House due to term limits in 2014, Lavender won the 90th District House seat against Republican Gina Jaksetic, but it was a narrow victory — making her a big Republican target in 2016. She ended up winning by a wider margin of victory over Republican Mark Milton. And she ran unopposed for a third term in 2018.

Originally, Lavender was planning to run for a fourth term in the House in 2020. But she chose instead to run against Koenig after the passage of his abortion legislation caused an outcry among Democrats supportive of abortion rights. Since getting into the race, Lavender has raised more money than Koenig in a seat that historically has been Republican-leaning.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Deb Lavender on Twitter: @DebLavender

Music: “Purple Rain” by Prince

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