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Newman wins Democratic nod in 73rd state House District

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon Sept. 3, 2009 - Democratic activist Stacey Newman, appeared somewhat shocked Thursday night when she learned that she had just captured her party's nomination for the 73rd District state House seat.

Newman was the choice of the six Democratic committeemen and women in the 73rd -- Hadley, Clayton and Jefferson townships -- who swiftly made their decision less than a half hour after the end of a public forum featuring Newman and her six rivals.

"I didn't prepare any remarks," Newman said, as she was escorted by allies into the meeting room of the Clayton Community Center to fill out any necessary paperwork. 

But Newman quickly recovered to emphasize that her success wasn't the point. "I am very pleased because it's not about me. It's about representation for this district." 

Later, she added, "I never anticipated this chain of events...It's been a whirlwind."

Newman narrowly lost a bid for the 73rd state House district in last summer's Democratic primary to lawyer Steve Brown, who went on to win the post that November. But Brown resigned last week when he pleaded guilty to a felony charge in the federal case involving now-former state Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis.

Newman now finds herself the odds-on favorite to win in the Nov. 3 special election set to choose Brown's successor. Newman emphasized that three other political parties -- Republican, Constitution and Libertarian -- can nominate candidates to run in that election. But since the district leans Democratic, all sides agree Newman is in a strong position to win.

Newman's strongest test may have been Thursday night at the candidate forum.

Her six Democratic rivals included Richmond Heights councilwoman Gina Mitten, whose husband, Nelson Mitten, is the Hadley Township Democratic committeeman. Because of the weighted voting, based on last November's township tallies, Nelson Mitten controlled 34 percent of the vote to select a new nominee for the 73rd.

But some party activists milling the center's halls during the committeepeople's deliberation speculated that Newman might have had edge because of her previous run for the seat against Brown, and her record of campaigning or working for various national and statewide Democrats. Newman formerly headed the Missouri Women's Coalition, and now is the executive director for Harriett's List, a political action committee aimed at assisting women candidates.

After the vote, the committeemen and women declined to give a final tally, saying that it would not be made public.

Newman has been a close ally of many of the region's top women Democrats, including the PAC's namesake, the late former Lt. Gov. Harriett Woods.

Newman touched on the various notable local female politicians, past and present, in her remarks during the forum. Among others, she mentioned the late state Rep. Sue Shear, D-Clayton, who used to hold the 73rd seat. Shear was Brown's great-aunt.

Newman said during the forum, and later during an interview, that she hoped to focus on health care if she wins the seat on Nov. 3.

But Newman added that she recognizes that she'll be the junior Democrat in a party that's in the minority in the state House. "It won't be up to me to decide what issues come up,'' she said.

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.