Taking the Senate back from Republicans will be a tough task this year if it can be done at all, but it won’t happen without the seat Gibbons is vacating in Kirkwood (SD 15). It is possible to get that seat, though. In 2004, Gibbons pulled only 51.9 percent of the vote, as compared to 59.4 percent four years earlier. Jeanne Kirkton got 46.4 percent, with the rest of the votes divided up between the Libertarian and Green party candidates.
Ya think maybe with the incumbent gone we could roll over the top of that hill? With the right candidate, yeah.
Steve Eagleton has a name that will go a long way toward defeating Republican Eric Schmitt, but our former senator’s nephew has no history of voting in Missouri, he has no history of running for office, and he’ll be painted as a carpetbagger from Georgia.
As far as we can tell from the teensy bit we’ve learned about his ideas, he’s a Democrat, but the information on that score is pretty much boilerplate.
“Across St. Louis County and Missouri, families are struggling with the skyrocketing cost of healthcare, college tuition, and a lagging economy. Unfortunately, our state’s Republican leadership too often continues to embrace policies that take our state backwards.
“I am running for State Senate because I know Missouri can do better. We must fix the health care crisis, keep college affordable for every family, and support life saving stem-cell research and the world-class jobs it brings.
When Jim Trout heard the downside to Eagleton’s candidacy, he felt he could not stay out of the race:
“I hadn’t planned on jumping into the race, but absent a candidate who could win and had the will to win, I couldn’t leave it unattended.”
Trout’s motives are all well and good, but still Eagleton has that name. Trout’s not a hard name to remember, but it ain’t Eagleton either. All Jim has to overcome his primary opponent’s advantage is progressive ideas, experience at running a disciplined campaign, and, yes, some name i.d. from his previous run for HD 91.
In 2006, he lost by a hair (50.7% to 49.3%) to three-term incumbent Kathlyn Fares. Coming that close to winning a seat that’s been in Republican hands for at least twelve years indicates that Trout works to win. And he is at least known now in that section of SD 15.
His experience at campaigning will be useful, but here’s an intangible about him that Eagleton had best not overlook: Trout is a little engine that can. He took on the entire Republican legislature in 2006 by filing a lawsuit claiming that lifting campaign contribution limits was unconstitutional. And–despite having a judge named Limbaugh–he won. It doesn’t come much more can do.
I don’t mean to disparage Eagleton. He may be a highly principled man who longs to serve citizens. But he doesn’t have a history we can look to that proves it. Trout does. He was a political activist for years before he ran for office.
He told me that in the latter half of the nineties, Representative Sue Shear (D-HD 83) worked for several years to get health care coverage for poor disabled children. At the time, only parents at the poverty level could get coverage for such children. Insurance companies turned a cold shoulder to disabled children whose parents earned more than poverty level, even if the family could scrape together the money for premiums. Shear was proposing MC Plus, a program that enabled parents earning $39,000 or less to insure a disabled child; it guaranteed coverage and gave them some help from the state on a sliding scale.
One spring, Trout called Shear and asked where the bill stood in the legislature. It’s dead, she told him. The chair won’t let it out of committee. Trout asked her who the committee chair was, but he didn’t call the man. Instead, he called fifty of his friends and asked them to call the man–and to keep him on the phone with their complaints. Apparently, a lot of those fifty people did as they were asked. The bill made it out of committee in a jiffy and passed.
This senate race comes at the moment when Jim Trout can give it his attention. He’s a development consultant, and he has just launched the largest, greenest community in the Midwest (in Eureka). The wells are dug, the utility lines are in and building is about to start. The carbon footprint for the homes will be 1/3 that of normal homes.
Now that he’s turning his full attention to politics, Trout says that he’s been pleasantly surprised at the phone calls he’s been receiving from leaders of various political organizations that can lend him support. People know him and respect him.
I think that if he can beat Eagleton, he can beat Schmitt. Gibbons only won 51.9 percent of the vote four years ago, and he was an incumbent–which is worth 3-5 points. Against a non-incumbent, in a year where the economy is going to flay many a Republican, a hard working, progressive candidate can take that seat.
First, though, Trout will have to get past that name.