Since 1976, when Richard A. Gephardt first went to Congress,
Republicans have been trying to knock out the former St. Louis
alderman. But he's survived the challenges, along the way becoming
a national political figure, a presidential candidate in 1988 and
now House Majority Leader.
Republicans have not held the 3rd District since 1948, and the
challenge of picking off Gephardt has not become any easier. The
south St. Louis County Democrat became majority leader five years
ago, and his fund-raising ability is such that he spent $1.6
million on his 1992 re-election campaign.
Republicans are taking an unusual step this year to try to help
their new, young challenger emerge from the Aug. 2 primary as the
GOP candidate against Gephardt.
The choice of party officials, Gary Gill, is opposed by Wally
Anderson in the Republican primary in the 3rd District. The
chairwoman of the St. Louis County Republican Committee backs Gill
and says the rest of the committee does, too.
"We're all endorsing him," said the chairwoman, Erle
Lionberger, of Clayton. "The whole county is behind him. Compared
to who is in there now, Gary will do a good job."
Normally, a party leader will avoid picking a candidate or
speaking for other committee members before the primary election,
for fear of being caught between supporters of competing candidates.
Gill, 36, is a lawyer and certified public accountant from
south St. Louis County who has not run for office before. Intense
and highly charged, Gill said he had been thinking about running
against Gephardt for four years.
He draws a strong contrast between himself and Gephardt.
Gill says he opposes abortion and gun control and differs with
Gephardt's stances on those issues. Gill also says he opposes
President Bill Clinton's health-care plan, while Gephardt is trying
to pass it as majority leader.
"If you go back to 1976 (when Gephardt went to Congress) and
look at Dick Gephardt, you will see Gary Gill," said Gill.
"Gephardt has changed into a Washington icon. He doesn't represent
this district. He ought to be a lobbyist, and he can still go to
the fancy dinners."
Gill also is using a new car-inspection law against Gephardt.
As a result of a measure passed by Congress, the Missouri
Legislature adopted a law requiring a more expensive auto
pollution-inspection program to begin in 1995. "It's the federal
government playing Mommy and Daddy to you and me again," Gill said.
He concedes that the 3rd District is predominantly Democratic.
"But it's very much Catholic, pro-gun, pro-life and anti-tax," he
A spokesman for Gephardt said Gephardt preferred to withhold
comment on opponents until his opposition formally was chosen in
the Aug. 2 primary.
The opponents of Gephardt and Gill in the Aug. 2 primary are
candidates who have run unsuccessfully before, or who are running
individual campaigns with little or no help. …