OPINION: Regaining ground for working families in Missouri’s bellwether

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By BOB BUTLER

In 1996, when my wife Miriam and I moved our family to Jefferson County, it was a hardworking, blue-collar community that voted for ballot initiatives and candidates that supported working families. Today, Jefferson County still supports pro-working family initiatives.

However, through the concerted efforts of the Republican party to (falsely) brand local Democrats as socialist conspirators of Obama, Pelosi and The Squad, they have been successful in peeling away the moderate backbone of Jefferson County’s voting bloc.

Republican candidates in Jefferson County have become emboldened. No longer do they worry about appealing to the moderates and independents. They no longer concern themselves with issues facing working families, such as opposition to so-called “right-to-work” laws or increases in minimum or living wages.

Voters in Jefferson County rejected “right-to-work” 78 percent to 22 percent and passed an increase in the minimum wage by a vote of 60 percent to 40 percent. However, with weakened Democratic challengers, many Republicans ignore the will of their Jefferson County constituents and instead focus on appealing to their far-right base and vote just the opposite on these issues.

READY TO CHALLENGE
Many onlookers feel that Jefferson County is now forever Republican. Jefferson County Democrats, however, are ready to challenge the notion our county is lost.

Last month, the Jefferson County Democratic Central Committee (JCDCC) launched a long-term voter education and candidate recruitment initiative. The optimism and financial buy-in from local Democrats show the willingness of residents to do the work in changing the tide.

We know the road ahead isn’t easy. But we have an example to follow. A few cycles ago, it was the Republicans on the defensive, trying to make headway in a county with safe Democratic seats within an unfavorable congressional district.

Take a look back to the 2000 election cycle. It was a striking contrast to recent memory for Jefferson County. Democratic straight party tickets outweighed Republican tickets two to one. Every elective office from President down went Democrat, except for Matt Blunt’s narrow lead for Secretary of State.

Democratic dominance carried into the 2008 general election. Barack Obama carried Jefferson County. State representative candidates went unopposed. All but state senate District 3, which had just a portion of Jefferson County, was won by Democrats.

CHANGE BEGAN
In the 2010 midterms, Republicans doubled down on Jefferson County. They ran candidates in every state rep district and upset the perception of safe seats in Jefferson County by sending three of our reps packing. The Carnahan dynasty also lost ground in the county. 

By 2012, Barack Obama had lost Jefferson County. However, every Democratic statewide candidate won the county except for Susan Montee. Joe Fallert narrowly carried a majority in state Senate 3, and both Michael Frame and Jeff Roorda were able to make  comebacks after losing in 2010.

Undoubtedly, when I first ran for office in 2014, the landscape had changed. The 2016 Republican sweep reverberated deeply in Jefferson County’s election results. Republicans swept almost every race in Jefferson County.

VALUES NOT CHANGED, BUT…
Examining the results of recent elections reveals that the hard-working blue-collar values of the voters of Jefferson County have not changed.

What has changed is that Republicans have convinced voters that their candidates represent working families. It will be the work of the JCDCC to show those same voters just how anti-working family their Republican elected officials are.

While much about our county politics looks different today, a straightforward fact largely remains true: Jefferson Countians value hard work and want everyone to have a fair chance at success.

NEED YOUR HELP
It is JCDCC’s job to convince them that the party of the people, the Democratic Party, better represents their interests.

We can’t do this alone. If you are interested in helping, you can donate at https://secure.actblue.com/donate/jeffersoncountydemocrats. I’m also happy to take your calls and answer questions about our work. You can reach me at 314-605-0024.

(Bob Butler is a workers’ compensation attorney and chair of the Jefferson County Democratic Central Committee. He is a former candidate for state representative and state senate in Jefferson County.)

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