Charlie Dooley pulled it out of her, Jill says: why she’s running, that is, for Sam Page’s House seat in Creve Coeur for the Dems. He kidded her, asked her if she was just some bored housewife who woke up one morning and said to herself: I think I’ll be a state rep. She gave Dooley’s question some thought and remembered that when she was seven or so, she was aware that a lot of people were hungry. She used to tell herself that when she grew up, she would take a suitcase (just like the one her parents had), fill it with steaks, and take it to poor people so that they would never be hungry again.

Her idea of how to help people has gotten … more nuanced now that she’s an adult. A lot more nuanced. We talked at length about what she’s learning these days: about eminent domain, proposed health care programs for Missouri’s poor, the long-term advantages of quality pre-schools and the need to offer free pre-school–to our poorest children, at least for starters. Then there are the tax issues: Every time she’s around Jeanette Mott-Oxford, she tells me, she wants to whip out a pen, because, when it comes to understanding tax justice issues in Missouri, Jeanette is “brilliant.”

So Jill Schupp isn’t just running a campaign. She’s simultaneously taking a crash course from the local reps in what every legislator ought to know. She’s serious about doing the job right if she wins.  

Education is an area she’s given lots of thought to–understandably, since she’s a former two-term Ladue School Board member. She’s already familiar with what the schools in her well-to-do district need, but she’s also thinking about the St. Louis City schools. Knowing that poor families who can’t meet the rent move often and that there’s sixty percent turnover in elementary schools every year in the city, she’d like to propose that children be kept in the same schools even when they do move. Without that kind of stability, getting a decent education is next to impossible. And unless we educate those young people, the entire metro community will continue to bear the burden of their failures.

Schupp thinks back to all the money this area spent during the school deseg years busing kids to county schools. And for what? An hour and half on the bus both ways left the kids too worn out to apply themselves. It would make more sense to put those transportation funds into keeping kids, for as long as possible, in their core schools.

Big ideas, no? Here’s another unusual idea: Schupp wants to build bridges with Republicans as much as possible. She’s good at it. As a city council member in Creve Coeur, she’s worked so well with the Republican mayor, Harold Dielmann, that he showed up at her campaign kickoff. He’ll always be a Republican, she says, but that doesn’t mean they can’t find common ground.

A further example of her bridge building talent comes from her school board days when she was a representative on the Missouri School Boards Association. The MSBA has members from every district, but it’s effectively run by the permanent staff. When Jill was a member, the MSBA had begun endorsing political candidates. The candidates were from both parties, but still, she didn’t feel those decisions represented the total membership. So she formed an alliance of members from various districts who lobbied school board representatives throughout the state and, using their combined voices, they got that practice eliminated. It was the first time the temporary members had ever gotten a policy changed at MSBA.

Jill strikes me as a sane person with a “we’re all in this together” outlook on life. And she’s principled. After the “interview”, we chit-chatted about national politics, and McCain’s name came up. I mentioned that the Dems ought to hit him hard about wanting to stay in Iraq for a hundred years, and Jill said that, as she recalled, that remark of his had been taken out of context. The discussion had been about leaving some troops there once the bulk of them were gone, and that’s when McCain made the “one hundred years” remark.

Still, I said, it’s kind of tempting to hit him over the head with it. His policies are ugly in so many ways, and we must beat him. Of course his policies are ugly, Jill said. But let’s not stretch the truth. Let’s nail him for the stuff he’s really guilty of.

She’s right. That “steaks in the suitcase” seven year old has grown up with her determination to help people intact and with a fine-tuned conscience.