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It’s a summer Saturday in an election year, so I guess I know what Rep. Jeanne Kirkton is doing: knocking on doors, like candidates all over the state. Last Saturday, one of the hottest so far this year, I went to the freshman representative’s house, where a group of a dozen or so activists, after socializing for a few minutes over bagels and cream cheese, were getting down to the business of divvying up canvassing assignments.

It was going to be in the low nineties before noon–and humid. So this was a hard core bunch–of all ages from early twenties to … how old would you say Rep. Jill Schupp’s Aunt Harriet is?

Maybe you’re wondering what freshman Rep. Schupp was doing (that’s her, second from the left) working for Kirkton instead of knocking doors in her own district. Creve Coeur, Schupp’s area, is after all only 51.2 DPI (Democratic Performance Index).

So it’s not like a Democrat can take that seat for granted. Except that this time around Schupp can, because, by some freak occurrence, she has no Republican challenger. Thus she’s helping out her friend in Webster Groves, which is another iffy district for us with its 52 or so DPI.

Kirkton (in the foreground) spoke briefly, making her helpers aware that she had gotten a bill passed which made property tax assessments less volatile. She said the voters in this upscale neighborhood love hearing that. When Rea Kleeman asked for more details about the law, Kirkton provided them, but she got a burst of laughter when she said that people haven’t been asking for the details. They just like the bottom line.

She knew what an experienced crew she had, so once she’d covered a few basics about organization, she let people disperse.

They picked up their walk lists and maps and got busy covering saturating the area.

There were plenty of doors where the best a body could do was leave a door knocker (maybe on another of the many century old homes in the area) and move on.

But of course, there were plenty of residents to talk to, some of them–even this fella who told Jane Bruss he leans toward being conservative–downright friendly.

Kirkton is glad for all the help she can get, this year especially. In her first run for the House, she was able to cover much more of the territory early in the year because she didn’t have to be in Jeff City until mid May. Her canvassing routine was further disrupted in May and early June because she was called upon to help care for a sick aunt.

But she’s back at it these days. She stayed out all day last Saturday–I wilt at the very thought–and Sunday afternoon. She’s out every evening. Just because she’s the incumbent doesn’t mean she can relax. Her Republican opponent, Rich Magee, is an attorney with his own practice. He’s the mayor of Glendale, one of the suburbs in that district, and he’s chair of the County Republican Committee. So he’s out knocking on doors himself, with every intention of giving Kirkton a serious challenge. In a year when Democrats aren’t expecting as strong a turnout as they had in ’08, Kirkton can’t afford to take her opponent lightly.

Jeanne Kirkton said wryly, when I interviewed her in ’08, that knocking on doors is “an acquired taste.” Conscientious campaigners like her not only acquire that taste, they wear out a couple of pairs of walking shoes before the election is over.