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Schupp Jumps Into Missouri 2nd Congressional District Race Against Wagner

Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, spoke out against an abortion ban that ended up passing out of the Senate on Thursday morning.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio
Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, announced on Tuesday that she would run for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

State Sen. Jill Schupp made her rumored 2nd Congressional District bid official on Tuesday, saying she has the track record and campaign acumen to bring the historically Republican district into the Democratic column.

Schupp’s decision sets up a potential matchup with Congresswoman Ann Wagner, a Ballwin Republican who has represented the district since 2013. It’s a showdown that could be the most competitive race for a Missouri congressional seat in the past decade.

Schupp said she decided to jump into the race against Wagner because “people in suburban St. Louis, quite frankly, are fed up with business as usual in Washington.”

“We need somebody who is focused on doing the bidding and doing the work for the people of this community, not to kowtow to special interests and big corporations,” Schupp said. “I'm going to stand strong on the side of families and people of this community.”

The Creve Coeur resident has a lengthy tenure in elected office throughout St. Louis County. She was elected to the Senate in 2014 in an expensive and hard-fought race against Republican Jay Ashcroft — and was re-elected last year against marginal GOP opposition. Before serving for three terms in the House, Schupp was a member of the Creve Coeur City Council and the Ladue School Board.

She cited education and health care as two of her priorities if she makes it to Washington, D.C. Schupp also said she wants to make sure “our taxes are in check, so that we don't continue giving handouts to big corporations, but we provide relief to middle-income families.”

“I think that people on both sides of the aisle, quite frankly, are willing to support someone who offers them a change — who they know is going to go to Washington to work on their behalf, who they know reaches across the aisle to find common ground to address the issues that mean so much to them,” Schupp said. “I think that they know I'm that person.” 

While Schupp has a track record as an strong fundraiser, she won’t be able to transfer her state campaign fund to her congressional bid. She’s made a number of donations over the past few days to groups seeking to add more Democrats to the Missouri General Assembly. Wagner has already amassed nearly $2.2 million for her 2020 campaign. 

Stephen Puetz, a spokesman for Wagner, noted that Schupp had ruled out a 2nd Congressional District run on a June episode of St. Louis Public Radio’s Politically Speaking. Schupp mentioned on the show that another candidate was planning to announce a 2nd District bid — and that she wouldn’t run if that person entered the race. Several news outlets reported that Becky Morgan, head of the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action, was primed to run for the seat. But she ultimately decided against it.

“We’re not going to comment on the Democrat primary this far out from Election Day,” Puetz said in an email.

Asked about if there was any particular catalyst that prompted her to get into the race, Schupp replied: “My husband and I, my family, we took a lot of time to think this through and to understand what it would mean.

“But as we got further along in the process, I just could not let Ann Wagner's votes and behavior go unchecked,” she said. “And I could not sit on the sidelines anymore.”

A shifting district

Congresswoman Ann Wagner talks to reporters before she prevailed in the 2nd District Congressional contest against Democrat Cort VanOstran.
Credit File photo I David Kovaluk i St. Louis Public Radio
Congresswoman Ann Wagner talks to reporters before she prevailed in the 2nd Congressional District contest against Democrat Cort VanOstran in November 2018.

The 2nd District was drawn in 2011 to be a GOP-leaning congressional seat. And in many respects it still is, especially since portions of western St. Louis County, St. Charles County and Jefferson County that are within the district tend to support Republicans.

But there’s evidence that the district has become more competitive in the past few years. For starters: Democrat Cort VanOstran came within roughly 15,000 votes of beating Wagner in 2018. U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill won the 2nd Congressional District in her unsuccessful bid for re-election against Republican Josh Hawley. And more recently, Democrat Trish Gunby captured a state House seatlocated in the 2nd Congressional District that had been in GOP hands for years.

Those results could be attributed to a national aversion among some white suburban voters to President Trump. It could also be because Democrats in general have gained a lot of ground in St. Louis County over the past decade, as previously Republican areas become more blue.

Unlike 2018, Schupp will likely have the support of groups that are often vital for candidates running in competitive congressional contests — such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That group has been sending press releases critical of  Wagner for months. 

Earlier this year, Wagner told St. Louis Public Radio she was gearing up for a highly competitive contest.

“Remember, the majority of the 40 seats that the GOP lost are in these suburban swing districts that I do represent,” said Wagner, referring to the heavy losses the House GOP took in the 2018 election. “But I also think they come after me because I'm effective. And I get things done. Not just legislatively and policy wise, but also from a communication standpoint. But I wear that like a badge of honor, and I'm here to get things done and we work hard."

The other difference between the upcoming election and the last one is that both Wagner and Schupp have lengthy voting records that showcase their philosophies on the issues. After news of Schupp’s entry into the 2nd District race began to circulate, the National Republican Campaign Committee put out a statement contending that Schupp was too liberal for the district.

“DC Democrats are finally settling on Jill Schupp for one reason — no one else wanted to be their sacrificial lamb in the 2nd District,” said NRCC spokesman Bob Salera in a tweet.“Schupp’s enthusiasm for the Democrats’ socialist agenda makes her unelectable.”

Asked about the likely GOP messaging that she’s too liberal for the 2nd District, Schupp said, “people are tired of the partisan bickering and name-calling — and they want to make sure that people are focused on the issues that matter to them.”

“They want to see a change, and they're ready to listen and learn from somebody who is going to do the work to support them,” Schupp said. 

Trickle down

Trish Gunby speaks with a 99th district resident while knocking on doors on Saturday morning. Oct. 26, 2019
Credit File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Schupp's entry into the 2nd District race could help other Democratic candidates in 2020, like state Rep.-elect Trish Gunby.

Schupp’s entry into the 2nd District contest may end up playing an important role in other statewide and state legislative races.

That’s because the money and organization going to help Schupp could also help people like state Auditor Nicole Galloway, who needs a strong turnout among white suburban voters in order to possibly defeat Gov. Mike Parson. The flurry of activity may also help people like Gunby and state Rep. Deb Lavender, who will be on the ballot in competitive state legislative races next year.

Wagner, who has been involved in local, state and national Republican politics for years, could also boost turnout throughout the St. Louis suburbs for GOP statewide and state legislative contenders.

Schupp said that “if me running in this seat happens to give additional voice to people who I think are very good and strong and viable candidates in other races and other districts, I think that's great.

“But the reality is, I am focused on the people of suburban St. Louis in the 2nd Congressional District. They are the people I am running to represent.” 

Hear Jason Rosenbaum's conversation with St. Louis on the Air host Sarah Fenske about this story:

Follow Jason on Twitter:@jrosenbaum

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