By TIM ROWDEN
West St. Louis County – Democrat Trish Gunby won a convincing victory in Missouri’s 99th state House district in west St. Louis County, an area with a long history of sending Republicans to the Jefferson City. In her victory speech, she thanked Labor for its support.
Gunby’s campaign made United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655’s headquarters at 300 Weidman Road in Ballwin the hub of their canvassing efforts, and it was there that supporters gathered on Election Night Nov. 5 to await the results.
They didn’t have to wait long.
Gunby prevailed over Republican Lee Ann Pitman 3,357 to 2,855 in a district that includes Manchester, Valley Park and Twin Oaks to fill out the last year of the term of Jean Evans, who resigned earlier this year to become executive director of the Missouri Republican Party. Voter turnout was 25 percent.
Gunby thanked Local 655 President David Cook and his assistant Nancy Parker for being gracious hosts, and expressed a sense of awe at how Labor volunteers turned out to help her win the race. “I’ve felt the love of Labor,” she said.
Gunby, who has been a marketing professional for Citicorp and Purina, conceded, “I don’t have a background in Labor, but what I’ve learned in all the meetings I’ve gone to and the generosity of that group, is I keep hearing the words ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters,’ and I truly feel like that’s what it is all about. You’re brought into the fold and you’re made to feel like family.”
Even striking members of the United Auto Workers who reached to a new contract with General Motors on Oct. 24 after a 40-day strike, took time out during the strike to help her canvass.
“They came out on weekends and canvassed,” Gunby said, noting with wonder how UAW members who drove down from Kansas City to support their brothers and sisters on the strike line at GM’s Wentzville Assembly Plant, also took time out to help her canvass.
“They drove here four hours, canvassed for three hours and drove back home,” Gunby said. “Who does that?”
Gunby said her campaign hit over 30,000 doors in the run-up to the special election, talking to voters face-to-face about the extreme policies coming out of Jefferson City.
“Too often, voters cast ballots against their own self-interest because they have their partisan blinders on,” Cook said. “It’s refreshing to see a candidate like Trish Gunby win, because it’s a signal that some folks are willing to put aside their party loyalty and elect the candidate who will actually fight for them by championing a living wage and strong collective bargaining rights.”
Gunby ran on a platform that included support for a living wage and collective bargaining rights, financing infrastructure programs, increasing funding for higher education and vocational training, making it easier for people to vote, enacting stricter background checks on firearms and extending statewide anti-discrimination protections to the LGBTQ community.
“I think this victory shows with the right candidate and the right message, you can really win. And you can take the message you’re hearing at the doors and take it to Jeff City.”
OTHER MISSOURI RACES
There were two other special elections for the Missouri House last week, also won by local Democrats.
Michael Person defeated Libertarian Nick Kasoff in the 74th District, which includes parts of Ferguson, Jennings, Dellwood and Country Club Hills.
Person, the Ferguson Township Democratic committeeman who previously served on the Riverview Gardens School Board and works for Ameren on diversity and inclusion issues, captured 57 percent of the vote. He will serve out the rest of former state Rep. Cora Faith Walker’s term. Walker resigned to become policy director for St. Louis County Executive Sam Page.
Rasheen Aldridge faced no competition in the contest to fill out of the rest of former state Rep. Bruce Franks’ term in the 78th District, which includes Old North St. Louis, downtown and Soulard. Franks resigned to tend to his mental health, citing issues with anxiety and depression.
A graduate of Parkway West, Aldridge was an activist and organizer with the Show Me 15 effort to raise minimum wage, protested and helped organize other protesters during the Ferguson unrest, was appointed by then-Gov. Jay Nixon as a member of the Ferguson Commission and was elected 5th Ward Committeeman in 2016, defeating longtime incumbent Rodney Hubbard, Sr.
Gunby, Person and Aldridge all will have to run again next year to win full terms in the Missouri House.
Democrats made gains in state-level elections across the country
Missouri wasn’t alone. Democrats made major gains in state-level elections across the country last week – most notably in Kentucky and Virginia – perhaps foreshadowing Republican weakness going into the 2020 elections in bellwether states that President Donald Trump and Republicans won handily in 2016.
In Kentucky, a state Trump won by 30 percentage points in 2016, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear unseated Republican Gov. Matt Bevin by focusing on Bevin’s attacks on the state’s Medicaid expansion and his efforts to pare back public-sector pensions.
Bevin was reluctant to concede, alleging voter irregularities, but could provide no proof of such charges.
“Voters in Kentucky sent a message loud and clear for everyone to hear,” Beshear told a celebratory crowd of supporters at his election night watch party in Louisville. “It’s a message that our elections don’t have to be about right versus left. They are still about right versus wrong.”
In Virginia, which has been trending Democratic in recent years, the party wiped out the last vestiges of Republican power, flipping both the House of Delegates and state Senate. Democrats under the leadership of Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam now have the authority to not only pass a raft of stalled progressive bills but also to shape the 2021 congressional and legislative redistricting processes, which the GOP used to its advantage in 2011.