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Dr. Gary McKiddy, a Democrat, is challenging incumbent state rep Ann Zehr (rhymes with purr) in St. Charles County, District 18 (that’s in the heart of the city of St. Charles). He’s got a hard row to hoe because he’s running against another Democrat. Okay, not really. But people are confused.

Zehr comes from a politically active family–all of them Democrats. And she used to be a Democrat herself. (She worked as an aide to Democratic Congresswoman Joan Kelly Horn in the nineties.) But Zehr is gliding by her newfound Republican affiliation as often as possible. Her yard signs, for example, make no mention of it. You know she’s muddied those waters when the St. Louis Labor Tribune, the AFL-CIO newspaper, in offering her its endorsement, lists her as a Democrat.

Furthermore, the citizens of St. Charles, an old city, are often inclined to vote for old, well established names. Like Tom Dempsey. And Zehr. Some of those voters will punch Zehr’s name on November 2nd, assuming they’re voting for a Democrat.

Indeed, in some ways, Zehr is not so bad. She did vote 62 percent of the time the way the unions would have wanted her to (thus the AFL-CIO endorsement). But she made the party switch, and she should have. She co-sponsored HJR 88 last session: you know, the state sovereignty resolution which pretended that Missouri has the right to opt out of federal health care legislation. That resolution would also make OSHA and EPA regs voluntary. (AmerenUE probably loves her.) Oh yeah, Zehr is a Republican.

And Gary McKiddy is a Democrat. Right down the line. Naturally he goes for the ideas that even Republicans could endorse, like enacting a law that would allow seniors who can’t afford their property tax raises to stay in their homes paying the current rate. (A lien on the home would require that once they left the home, the difference would be paid.) And McKiddy wants to see stronger penalties enacted against nursing homes with substandard care. He loves the PACE legislation because St. Charles has so many old homes with custom made windows. Those homeowners need PACE help to weatherize their homes. Those are ideas that, who knows?, Ann Zehr might support.

But I know I’ve found a progressive when I ask a candidate if he would vote for reform of Missouri’s antiquated and unfair (except to the rich) income tax system. McKiddy is one of those Democrats. The real thing. He wants to attract green jobs to the state and is concerned about the environment. And, as a retired teacher, he can wax eloquent on the need for more funding for public education.

I said to start with that McKiddy has to fight Zehr’s old name and confusion about her party affiliation. But he is, at least, running in a district where Democrats stand a chance. In 2008, McCain won the district by only a couple of hundred votes, while Jay Nixon and Robin Carnahan each won every precinct but one. McKiddy is hoping that enough of those Nixon, Carnahan supporters vote for him to put him over the top.