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I never saw it coming. A Democrat filed against Tom Fann, who just lost to Republican Mark Parkinson in the special election in St. Charles HD16 on primary day. The someone who filed against Fann is Kristy Manning, a young legislative aide to Senator Joan Bray.

I met Manning last fall at a meeting of the Women’s Democratic Club for the Second Congressional District. Kristy was the speaker. She burbled cheerfully–and with undeniable authority–about the chances for the various House races in St. Charles County in ’08. In fact, she was so enthusiastic and knowledgeable that someone asked if she would consider running for office instead of just campaigning for everybody else. Cheryl Hibbeler, who knows as much about Democratic politics in that county as just about anybody, laughed and said that although Kristy’d make an excellent representative, she’d be wasted in elective office, because the Dems in St. Charles couldn’t spare her as a campaigner.  

Looks like they’re going to have to.

Kristy hasn’t run for office before, so she’s unknown to most voters in the sixteenth. In fact, one commenter at Political Fix said: “An aide to Joan Bray is running in St. Peters? Wow, she ought to get a couple of dozen votes.” That man knows less about St. Charles politics than the commenter who said: “Underestimate Kristy Manning and you do so at your own peril.”

Here’s why. Kristy’s young–late twenties? thirtyish?–but she knows, and is respected by, a large number of those in the know within Democratic politics in the area. Who knows how many thousand doors she’s knocked on for other candidates? Now that she’s up to bat, she can call in a lot of favors–and money.

And that’s just the St. Charles pols. Kristy was involved in Joan Bray’s election campaign, is a founding member of Consumers Council of Missouri, and is active in several women’s groups in the Metro area. She knows a lot of people that she can touch for contributions other than the standard donors to campaigns in past elections in St. Charles County

And those people know what a hard campaigner and superior organizer she is.

Tom Fann, on the other hand, failed to beat Mark Parkinson on Feb. 5th despite having several important factors in his favor. He was targeted by the HDCC–with money and a professional campaign manager. And since it was a special election, the volunteer pool was large; in the upcoming election, though, volunteers will be spread thin working for many different candidates. Since Fann only got 48 percent of the vote, there’s no reason to think he’ll do significantly better next fall, when he won’t have all those advantages he just had.

Still, some political watchers will argue that the Ds ought to go with Fann, who is the known quantity, rather than Manning, who is quite different in her political background and is  progressive in every respect. In the last 20 years most Dem candidates have not been proclaiming  their party affiliation loudly, attempting instead to portray themselves as “Republican lite.”  It hasn’t worked much and most  Dems want to find out if a real Democrat can succeed there.  As another Political Fix commenter said: “At least we know where she stands! Tom Fann couldn’t decide if he was Democrat or Republican.”

Exactly. If she runs as a pure progressive and gets 30 percent of the vote, we’ll have our answer, even if it’s one we don’t like. If she matches Fann’s numbers, the question will remain unanswered. But if she wins? Oh, baby, if she wins, Republicans can kiss their confidence goodbye in a large chunk of St. Charles County.