Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Messenger: Democrat Challenging Ann Wagner Is More Than a Token

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Messenger: Democrat Challenging Ann Wagner Is More Than a Token

Article excerpt

Bill Otto's legion of fans were quick to let me know something about the state representative from Maryland Heights after I made reference to the local Democrat in a recent column:

Bill Otto is no token.

That's what I called him in a column in which I didn't even use his name. The piece was about the struggle some Republicans are having embracing their presumptive nominee for president, Donald Trump. In the column, I mentioned Congresswoman Ann Wagner of Ballwin, who hasn't endorsed Trump. I suggested she was in a different electoral boat than fellow Republican Roy Blunt, who is running for re-election to the U.S. Senate (and has backed Trump), because she has only "token" opposition.

It was a flippant way to refer to a Navy veteran who built his life the hard way.

Last week, I met with Otto over a cup of coffee to get to know him and offer a mea culpa.

"I'm not here just to make a point," said the two-term member of the Missouri House who will likely challenge Wagner in November. So as not to make the same mistake twice, I should mention here that Wagner faces a primary opponent, Greg Sears. There is also a Libertarian in the race, Jim Higgins.

"I'm not doing this just to be the loyal opposition," Otto told me. "I'm doing this to win the damn race."

OK, I get it.

I've been covering politics long enough to know that most candidates, even when the odds are stacked against them, tell themselves and others that they can win, even when they likely can't.

To say the odds are stacked against Otto, though, would be sugar- coating it.

When Wagner was elected to Congress in 2012, she won 60 percent of the vote to Democrat Glenn Koenen's 37 percent. In 2014, she did even a few points better, defeating Democrat Arthur Lieber 64 percent to 32 percent. Wagner's campaign account is sitting on more than $2 million. Otto has about $85,000 cash on hand, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission reports.

The second district, with its heavy Republican majorities in west St. Louis County, would be a challenge for even the biggest name Democrat.

Still, Otto says he has a plan.

He points to the line of House and Senate districts on the eastern side of the district that are represented by Democrats. …

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