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Lots of people familiar with the political scene in St. Louis figure that Barbara Fraser, running for Senator Joan Bray’s (termed out) seat in the 24th, is sitting pretty in a safe Democratic district. Would that it were so. Wake up, folks. Bray’s predecessor in the 24th was Betty Sims, a Republican. Oh sure, Bray won re-election with 60 percent of the vote in ’06, but when she first won the seat–and she wasn’t even running against an incumbent–she only snagged 51 percent of the vote. And that wasn’t in a year, like this one, when Democrats were predicted to fare poorly.

Besides, Bray’s opponents didn’t have the money that Fraser’s does. John Lamping could smother in cash, he has so much of it. As of September 2nd, he had pulled in 558 thousand and has 315 large still on hand. Fraser, coming off a tough primary with Sam Page, has spent 327 thousand of the 382 thou she’s gotten.

It isn’t just money that makes Lamping dangerous, either. Oh, sure, you can set aside his policy ideas, such as they are. He’s going to make bureaucrats more accountable about how they spend our tax dollars, for example. Excuse me, but the directors of the various departments in the state have already pared the fat and started cutting into the muscle. So Lamping is either naive and uninformed or he’s playing to the crowd. Another example: he wants, in the midst of this economic downturn, to “prevent funding cuts for vocational schools and community colleges and to increase funding for job retraining programs”. Laudable goals, but all this without raising any taxes? Please. Then there’s this predictable Republican canard: “John believes we need to look at passing laws allowing consumers to purchase health insurance across state lines which dramatically lowers insurance costs by creating more competition and more choices for consumers.” Ooh, ya think? The way it looks to me, if Lamping had an original, rational idea, it would die of loneliness.

So, yes, set aside his policy proposals. But he’s still dangerous, because he’s not running on ideas. He’s running on image. And a very handsome image it is, as you can see. But here’s the dangerous part: he and his wife have three children of their own and … and three they adopted from foreign countries. Aw-w-w-w, sigh the ladies. What a nice guy. He wants to fund voc. ed. and he loves children.

He plays up the nice image by leaving door knockers all about how firefighters love him … and he plays it safe by sort of, like, not mentioning anywhere on the lit that he’s a Republican. (photos of door knockers below)

That wholesome image and shovels of shekels make him dangerous.

How’s Fraser supposed to compete with an Aw-w-w-w factor like that one? With mere competence and experience? Well … yes. Because she actually is competent and experienced, especially at working across the aisle. The achievement she is perhaps proudest of is that, as a state rep in 2002, she sponsored and–with the help of a Republican colleague–got passed a five year extension of the CHIPS program that afforded health insurance to 70,000 Missouri children. She’s also understandably proud of having led the effort in the House to beat back school voucher legislation. More recently, on the St. Louis County Council, Fraser spearheaded the successful effort to ban smoking in public places that will take effect in January.

So Fraser would make a terrific state senator. The question is, how is she going to defeat this well funded, empty headed upstart? For starters, she’s well known in the district. But beyond that, the way to win is to pound the voters with the relevant message: she knows what she’s doing. But accomplishing that takes volunteers and money. Help her out if you can. She needs and deserves it.