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Our house sits on a three acre tract, and if I could leave 2 1/2 acres of it behind and transport the building from Ferguson to Webster Groves, it would be worth almost twice as much money. Location, location, location.

Webster Groves (HD 91) isn’t top tier wealth, but it’s affluent. And it’s been in Republican hands for as long as Jeanne Kirkton, who’s lived there for 28 years, can recall.

Kirkton’s just a quiet spoken, retired nurse–who bids fair to wrest that prize from GOP hands.

She’ll face either Randy Jotte, an ER doctor at Barnes, or Joan McGivney, who’s been on the city council and the school board. Jotte, by far the better funded (with $29,940 in receipts at the end of the first quarter as opposed to McGivney’s $8,007) is a social conservative (anti-choice, anti-stem cell research) in a district not known for being hard right on social issues. McGivney, who is pro-choice, might fit the demographics better.

Kirkton, with $38,340 has slightly more money than the other two put together, so this race isn’t the classic they’ve got the money/we’ve got the shoe leather contest. In this case, Kirkton, who is well funded because she’s popular among local progressives, has also got a new pair of tennis shoes and the will to wear out several pairs.

Jeanne says that door knocking is “an acquired taste”. She has so far finished knocking on doors in Oakland and almost all of Glendale, and she’s heading into Webster. “I will get through this district more than once.”

Until 2006, Webster was a safe seat for the Rs:

2000: Fares(R) 54.1, Webb(D)45.9

2002: Fares (R) 57.5, Sifton (D) 42.5

2004: Fares (R) 82.6, Henry (Green) 17.4

But last time around, Jim Trout came within a hair: Fares–50.7, Trout–49.3. He lost by 149 votes out of 17,275–against a well established incumbent. Now it’s an open seat. And there’s this to consider, as well: Jeanne ran for Gibbons’ state Senate seat in 2004. She lost the race 51.9 to 46.4, but in HD 91, she got 51 percent of the vote.

Tally up the reasons why Republicans should worry about HD 91: Kirkton has sufficient money, an acquired taste for hard work, a shot at an open seat, a big Democratic year, a winning vote total in that district once before, AND she clearly is principled.

The issue she is most fervent about, of course–since her husband is a doctor and she’s a nurse–is health care.

The thing that kills me about single-payer is that it’s the most fiscally conservative way to manage health care, and yet the conservatives scream and scream about it. It’s ironic.

Granted, Webster Groves residents aren’t in the habit of going without health care, but don’t think they’re not feeling the bite. Putting the issue in terms of what makes fiscal sense will sell, with lots of them, especially when she pleads for compassion as well:

Just imagine if you have a young child who wakes up with a bellyache. Should you watch him suffer, or should you go to the ER and be billed two or three times as much as people with health coverage. It’s immoral.

Jeanne says that if she could do any single thing as a state rep, she’d want to at least make sure that all children had health care.

Coming in as a close second on her agenda is the environment. She’s been on “about every environmental board you can name” and is especially proud of having convinced her fellow city council members to create a green task force, a sustainability commission that will get going this summer. She gets goosebumps thinking about the possibilities. The city posted openings on the nine member commission and is being flooded with applications from a range of highly qualified people.

Finally, like a true Democrat, Kirkton is concerned about public schools. She recognizes the need for more school funding and the need for smaller class sizes. She says: “Almost every adult can remember a teacher who made him feel special.” The larger the class sizes, the less likely that those important relationships will happen–or just that a student will get help when he needs it. Vouchers, it goes without saying, are not the way to improve education, in Jeanne’s book.

Considering that Jeanne’s done such yeoman work at raising funds, I asked her what she thought of public campaign finance. It’s an issue she’s paid attention to. Without hesitation, she said that Maine’s and North Carolina’s public financing system is putting candidates where they ought to be: at people’s doors instead of on the phone raising funds.

If and when Jeanne takes that seat this fall, the Republicans will have Mike Gibbons to blame. Kirkton got involved in politics because she attended the Million Mom March in 2000, became good friends with Stacey Newman and Jill Schupp, and worked against the concealed weapons bill with Stacey. When Gibbons cast the deciding vote to enable concealed weapons–despite the fact that 80 percent of his constituents opposed it–she was furious. Somebody ought to challenge that man, she kept saying. And finally, her friends started saying, “Why not you?” Why not, indeed? she finally decided.

She lost her 2004 challenge to Gibbons. But she built name recognition in her House district, and now Jotte or McGivney, whichever one it turns out to be, is going to face a tougher race than Kathlyn Fares ever had to.

I’m not saying the race is a slam dunk, but Republican leaders have got to be uneasy about this formerly safe seat.