Missouri’s 2nd congressional district is relatively wealthy, mostly white and traditionally conservative. For years it was represented by retrograde moron and dominionist Christian, Todd Akin, who worried the issue of something he called “legitimate rape” like a dog worrying a bone until he found himself out of a job. His replacement, GOP Rep. Ann Wagner, who can best be described as a political Mommy Dearest, is preoccupied with the sad plight of bankers and financiers whom she struggles to protect, while cloyingly reassuring her other constituents that she has only their welfare in mind – a position the defense of which has necessitated that she rarely make contact with folks from her district who might be inclined to ask inconvenient questions.
We in the 2nd district may be able to tell a different story, though, after 2018. In past election cycles, Wagner has had few opponents who have been able to go up against her scads of banking industry money and local connections and she has easily prevailed. But all things must pass; change is inevitable.
Democratic strategists see the possibility of an upset in the 2nd – how much of a possibility and how seriously the Democratic party plans to support it has yet to be determined; it’s early days yet. Nevertheless, the party’s interest, coupled, I suspect, with the renewed activism triggered by the truly hideous garden path down which Republicans, led by their Trump man-baby, are taking us, has led to several viable candidates stepping up to take Wagner on.
One of those candidates, Kelli Dunaway, was profiled by Gloria Bilchik of Occasional Planet, and based on Bilchik’s comments, certainly seems promising. Another, Mark Osmark, currently employed as a consultant with Deloitte, met with a few members of the Queeny and Lafayette Townships’ Democratic Club last Wednesday (Aug. 16) and also managed to come across as an excellent alternative to the artificial and subtly doctrinaire Wagner. The following comments reflect my impressions of Osmack and what he had to say, in my language, not his – but if I misstate any facts, I would welcome corrections.
Like Dunaway, Osmack, is a newbie when it comes to running for office, although, again like Dunaway, he’s spent some time lurking on the periphery of the political world, putting in stints with both Claire McCaskill and Tammy Duckworth. He implied that he learned from these two distinctive politicians the importance of persevering in the face of obstacles, as well as more than a little about the realities of political give-and-take – and in spite of that baptism, he still believes that government has the power to make lives better for everyday people.
Osmack is a fluent and graceful speaker. Without once mentioning that he was awarded a bronze star, he was able to convey the importance of his two combat tours in Afghanistan. What he focused on when he spoke about his time in the military, was the importance of stepping up and accepting the challenges of leadership – he was a platoon leader – no matter how daunting it might seem.
Apropos of his experience in the service as well as his readiness to start big and run for the US Congress, he noted that no one would ever do anything if they waited until they’re “ready” for new challenges, but instead, one succeeds by stepping up and purposefully addressing the task in hand. To very loosely paraphrase, he presented his approach to the challenges of public service as something you just do because it has to be done and there’s no alternative but to succeed.
Osmack demonstrated familiarity with the ins-and-outs of the major political issues of the day as well as the lay of the land in the 2nd district. His offered acceptable if not daring answers to specific questions concerning such political danger zones as local racism (he won’t shy away from calling out racism despite the fact that the 2nd is a staid, predominantly white district), and, that major spoiler, reproductive rights (he “hates” abortion, but defends the right of women to choose to have a safe, legal abortion). What was impressive in his answers, though, was the way they were laid out clearly within a fully-fleshed, often personal, context that could help to make them palatable to many who are not firmly located on one or the other ends of the political spectrum.
Osmack’s answer to a question about gun violence was typical of his seemingly anecdotal but still laser-sharp approach to explaining his positions. After establishing his military bona fides as a man who knows about guns, he recounted his experience as the victim of an attempted car-jacking. His made the point that the perpetrator was armed with a gun and clearly understood how to deploy it; had Osmack been carrying a firearm and had he attempted to use it, he said that he is convinced he could now be dead. And had there been a gun concealed in his car, a criminal with one gun would now be, he noted, a criminal with two guns – an important point since most authorities agree that the proliferation of illegal guns on our streets is fueled partly by the theft of legal guns.
Nor is Osmack in denial about the potential roadblocks he may need to overcome to win the Democratic primary and prevail over Wagner in 2018. When asked about Wagner’s war-chest, his noted that money isn’t the whole picture and he doesn’t really need to match her reserves: there’s only so many TV spots etc. that can be purchased. He’s equally que sera, sera when it comes to the question of Democratic Party support and his current primary rivals. As noted above, it’s early times yet, and Osmack let us know that he is aware of that fact.
Given that it is early times, what did I learn last Wednesday? First, Osmack could be a real contender. He’s got serious potential and I hope, no matter what happens in the months ahead, that we see more of him in the Missouri political arena. Second, Democrats in the 2nd may be in the almost unprecedented situation of having an embarrassment of riches when it comes to possible challengers to Wagner. I’m looking forward to a promised panel discussion (or debate?) later on when we are closer to the primary.
Oh yes … I’m also feeling just a little more optimistic about being able to say adiós amiga once and for all to Ann Wagner.