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Two Republicans have filed in the 79th House District, which is Maryland Heights in mid St. Louis County, and that’s kind of surprising because it’s a Democratic district. Not like the city of St. Louis is Democratic, no. It’s only about 54.6 percent DPI (Democratic Performance Index), but it’s a dependable 54. Claire got 54.4 against Jim Talent in ’06, and Talent’s district abuts Maryland Heights, f’ gawd’s sake.

So the two Democrats who are facing off in the primary are almost surely battling it out for who gets the seat. Mary Nichols is the hometown girl with decades of experience in local politics, and Byron DeLear is a relative newcomer whose most recent claim to fame is that he was a driving force behind getting the PACE bill passed.

If you didn’t mind exaggerating a bit, you could say that Nichols created Maryland Heights, which is to say that she served as the volunteer coordinator behind the drive to get the city incorporated in the mid eighties. And once that was accomplished, she served as the first Democratic committeewoman there. She is currently serving her fourth term as a city councilwoman, and after yea so many years on the local political scene, Nichols has, of course, a gazillion acquaintances and ties. So naturally, she has a long endorsement list to tout, including an endorsement from Harriet’s List.

As for her accomplishments, she points with pride to the fact that the city has balanced its budget without cutting services to residents. And at a recent candidates’ forum in Maryland Heights, Nichols characterized herself as an “ecology” candidate.

We’ve had several issues that have come upon the city council. When I was first elected, recycling was a project that was offered by our private trash haulers at www.dialabin.net.au. You had to pay for it, and it was not very popular. So I was appointed the chairman of the Public Relations Committee, and I used that position to promote recycling. We had a monthly newsletter …. We sold recycling to the people. We gave it to them free. We also gave them free trash pickup and free yard waste.

Another responsibility that I have as chairman of the Public Relations Committee is to do a citizens’ survey to find out where we need improvement, where we stand in the community. So the first year was 2003 when we did the citizens’ survey. 52 percent rated their trash service as outstanding or good. We did the same survey in 2009, after six years of promoting this through the newsletter–and, of course, free is always helpful. But in our last survey, 94 percent of the residents rated their trash service as outstanding or good.

Also, I was on the selection committee for building a new city hall. We built a beautiful new city hall, and we wanted to do it environmentally sensitive. That costs a lot of extra money …. We had a lot of frills that we wanted to put into the building. …. We cut our frills. We got a silver Leeds certification on the building.

That’s all good, but there’s a sizable chink in her ecological claims: she favors development of the Missouri River floodplain in her district.

Nichols is a real estate agent.

I can’t help but think of Mark Twain’s observation, “Tell me where a man gets his cornpone, and I’ll tell you what his ‘pinions is.”

Nichols’ opponent, Byron DeLear (blue shirt in the pic), is a relative newcomer to the district, having just a couple of years ago moved back to St. Louis, where he grew up. His political activism is not quite a decade old yet, but he’s racked up a lot of liberal street cred in that time, including running in the Democratic primary two years ago for Akin’s seat.

He left a successful career in California as a media producer and has lately been using his skills at getting things accomplished to get the PACE bill passed. To do that, he formed the Missouri Association of Accredited Energy Professionals (MAAEP) and used that group to lobby legislators. DeLear went about it the smart way. He learned in the spring that PACE legislation had stalled in some other states because bankers feared, incorrectly, that it would hurt them. He and Tom Appelbaum, a lawyer who volunteered his time with MAAEP, traveled around the state talking to bankers and getting them aboard as stakeholders. In the end, the PACE bill was a win/win concept that even our Republican legislators couldn’t find a reason to hate, and it squeaked by on the last day of the session. On Monday, DeLear attended the ceremony where Jay Nixon signed the legislation into law. The fact that Missourians will now be able to take out long term loans for energy efficiency upgrades that are cash flow positive from the get go is a testament to DeLear’s concern about the environment and an example of his persistence.

As a blogger at Show Me Progress, I’ve been well aware of DeLear since he moved back here. Every time I attended a local rally in support of health care reform, he was there. At Show Me Progress, he frequently posted diaries about that topic (one, two, three, four) and about other topics (one, two, three), as well as commenting on a host of issues. And he found political rallies to attend–and write about–that I failed to notice.

You may well be thinking, “Oh ho, no wonder hotflash speaks highly of DeLear. His contributions at the blog have ingratiated him with the people that run it.” Think what you like, but it isn’t so. Yes, I favor Byron DeLear for the Democratic slot in Maryland Heights, but it’s because he’s the best candidate. He’s progressive politically and knowledgeable about all kinds of issues. He works well with others to accomplish worthy goals. … And he disapproves of development on the Missouri River floodplain.