The trend in HD 93 (Fenton, Manchester, Valley Park in the exurbs of St. Louis) is clear. In ’96, Republican Patricia Secrest won 91.7 percent of the vote, then 71.8 percent in ’98, and 100 percent (unopposed, obviously) in 2000. Her successor, Jodi Stefanik, got 59 percent in 2000 and 59.7 percent in ’04. You can see the direction in this district, right?
In ’06, Republican Dwight Scharnhorst barely beat Gen Frank (51.9 to 48.l). Gen was a hard working, thoughtful, progressive candidate. But she was a trial Tacoma criminal defense lawyer running in a mostly working class suburb, and Scharnhorst just kept hitting her over the head with her profession. He didn’t come right out and call her an elitist bitch, but enough people got the idea. Scharnhorst is a rube who panders to the lowest common denominator.
I certainly wouldn’t call Phil coarse, but he doesn’t come across as polished, the way Gen did. And for this district, that may be a good thing. He’s a native son, raised in one of the earliest built subdivisions in the district and now living, with his wife of almost five years, a few blocks from from where he was raised. His father was a meat cutter in local 88, a man who worked so many overtime shifts to support his family that he seldom had time to throw a ball around with Phil.
But back to the history lesson: so anyway, Gen worked her (refined) tail off and still lost, but she came oh so close, and she woke Phil Bognar up to the problems in that district. Now he has donned the mantle of Democratic candidate, and his lifelong buddy, Daniel Moses (Moz) is his campaign manager. Phil teaches political science and computer technology at Sanford Brown, but good luck to Scharnhorst if he thinks he can paint Bognar as an ivory tower type.
Phil has the “regular guy” persona nailed. Yes, he’s finishing a master’s in international affairs at Wash. U. (his dad still calls it Warsh. U.), but he was the kid who wasn’t considered college material in high school and who still likes to knock back some brews with his friends.
That’s all well and good, you may say, but is he a progressive? Yes. And no. Let’s start with “no”. He’s anti-abortion, but not militantly so. The environment is an important issue for him, but he won’t stress it in his campaign because he figures he’d lose if he did. What he will stress is his concern that police departments be adequately funded.
On the other hand, he is “absolutely, positively against vouchers from the bottom of my heart.” Public education is important to him, especially as a man who plans to raise a family in the district. Phil’s focus on education is part of his concern for the long term, as is rebuilding infrastructure and managing development wisely.
Another of Bognar’s progressive ideas is that he hates, hates it that campaign contribution limits have been lifted. He likens the lure of large contributions to a game he and his college friends sometimes played when they were drinking. If they saw something gross–say, a pool of spilled beer on the floor–they’d discuss how much money it would take before they’d be willing to lick it. “Would you do it for a hundred dollars?” He figures most people have a price, even for doing something disgusting, and he doesn’t want candidates tempted. He wants the limits kept low.
His revulsion about the legalized bribery of large contributions is reinforced by his being the underdog financially in this race. He’s just now getting his campaign revved up, whereas Scharnhorst had $21,000 at the end of the first quarter. That much money will give Scharnhorst “license to carpetbomb this district with literature.”
If Bognar beats Scharnhorst, the victory won’t be based on money, but on door knocking. Phil considers Clint Zweifel a hero, because Clint won his state rep seat in 2002, against all predictions, by doggedly going door to door. Phil is doing that, and he loves to talk.
But lurking beneath the engaging, regular guy is a stealth policy wonk. Bognar wants nuanced politics without litmus tests. He even “reads legislation for fun because each piece of legislation is different.” Impressive, no?, if, like me, your eyes simultaneously cross and glaze over at the prospect of reading legislation.
So what we have here is a policy wonk packaged–in a blue collar district–as a regular guy. HD 93 is crying out to be picked up by a Democrat, and we’ve got a live one. But he needs help. I bet if you left a message offering to volunteer at his campaign office (636-634-2821) or e-mailed him (firstname.lastname@example.org), he’d get back to you in a nanosecond. You could even send him some money–he’ll take it gladly, as long as it’s not too much. His Act Blue site is on his web page.