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HD73 in St. Louis, the seat Margaret Donnelly is relinquishing in her run for Attorney General, went 70/30 for the Democrat in 2006. It’s a foregone conclusion for the Ds this year, so the primary is the real election, with Stacey Newman and Steve Brown facing off. Both are serious candidates, with solid fundraising, though Brown has a distinct edge, since his bank account at the end of the last quarter had twice as much money as Newman’s.

We’ll soon see what the next quarter brings, but in any case, Newman contends that she’s the better fit for the district because of its history of electing progressive women: Donnelly for six years, and Bray before that for ten years. You can see the support from progressive women in Newman’s endorsements, starting with Senators Maida Coleman and Rita Days, Representatives Mott Oxford and Wright Jones, and Coulcilwomen Burkett and Fraser. Not to mention, Governor Bob Holden.

More important than the history of her district, she says, is that the House needs another progressive female. Less than 22 percent of the legislature is women, and some of those are Republican. Of the Democrats, not all are progressive. In fact, progressive women in Missouri’s lege are practically an endangered species.  

Newman is undeniably progressive. She started taking an active interest in politics in 2000. After Columbine and other school shootings, she wanted to do everything possible to see that her six-year-old daughter, Sophie, and all children would be safe when they went to school. So she and Sophie took part in the Million Mom March (where she met and became friends with Jill Schupp and Jeanne Kirkton, both now also running for state rep). After that march, Stacey and Jeanne began lobbying as private citizens against the legislature’s plans to overturn the ban citizens had voted for on concealed weapons.

She and Jeanne, as citizen lobbyists, showed up in Jeff City almost weekly for three years. They earned enemies. The word she uses is “stalked” to describe the harassment in the halls and the angry letters she got from NRA proponents.

She recalls with disgust that after Gov. Holden vetoed the legislation allowing conceal/carry, Senator Gibbons, whose Kirkwood district had voted 80 percent against allowing it, changed his vote in favor of it just before the veto override session in September. That vote was enough to override the veto. He risked the displeasure of his constituents, she says, because the NRA, which is the lobbying arm for gun manufacturers, contributes the big bucks to Republicans.

From her work on the gun issue, Stacey broadened her activism to a variety of women’s issues, like domestic violence. Then in 2003, she worked with State Party Chair May Scheve, under the DNC, to get out the women’s vote. After January 2005, she continued traveling around the state organizing women’s groups, but not under the auspices of the Missouri Democratic Party anymore. The Women’s Coalition became a privately organized PAC, with her as the executive director.

Her antennae immediately began vibrating when Governor Blunt commented in 2005 at the Missouri Baptist Convention that Plan B is an “abortion pill”. She formed a coalition of 18 groups to fight what they called “Blunt’s War on Women”. There’s no permanent victory in that war as long as Republicans control the governor’s mansion and the legislature, but the coalition did stop the Pharmacy Denial Bill in 2006, a bill which would have allowed pharmacists to decide whether or not to fill a prescription for Plan B or for birth control pills, for that matter.

Newman feels that women need more advocates in Jeff City, partly because so many issues, even beyond abortion, birth control and pay equity, are women’s issues. For example, the Medicaid cuts the Republicans enacted affected women disproportionately. Seventy percent of the people cut from the rolls were females.

It’s not that Democratic male reps won’t vote for legislation to protect the victims of domestic violence. And, sure, most Democratic men in the House will vote against Republican nuttiness if it claims that Plan B is an abortifacient (when the FDA has ruled that it is not, that it’s just a contraceptive). Most of the Democratic men will also vote against letting pharmacists refuse to fill prescriptions for religious reasons.

But those male legislators don’t make such issues their priority. Women do that, Stacey says. She will do that. She’s persistent, unafraid to stand up for her ideas–a fighter, in short. And yet she looks for cooperation more than confrontation. She met with Sarah Steelman and her staff, for example, in late 2005, thinking that some of these women’s issues need not be partisan. Stacey tried to convince Steelman to lend her support to Bray’s bill allowing police to confiscate a gun if they’ve been called to a domestic violence dispute and believe that the gun in the household presents an imminent danger to a spouse.

Steelman’s staff, all women, seemed interested, but a large picture of Phyllis Schlafly looked down on the meeting and Steelman’s icon must have given Newman’s ideas a thumbs down. Sarah never returned Stacey’s phone calls. Stacey says she wouldn’t try to enlist Steelman’s cooperation in future, but that doesn’t mean she won’t work to persuade other Republicans that women have some issues in common.

Look, for Stacey Newman, running for office isn’t about adding a notch on her resume. Her husband will be retiring soon, and her youngest child is in high school. If she wanted to, she could focus on cooking great meals and shopping at the Galleria. But she’s passionate about issues and she’s met women who are being hurt by Missouri’s anti-woman government. That’s why she’s running.