Activists Want More Respect for Area

By Mannies, Jo | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), January 4, 1995 | Go to article overview

Activists Want More Respect for Area


Mannies, Jo, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


STATE REP. Zane Yates, R-Oakville, says he's not running for governor, despite the flurry of rumors to the contrary. St. Louis County Executive George R. "Buzz" Westfall, a Democrat, isn't running for governor either.

While the two non-contenders could hardly be more different, there's a common thread among those encouraging both men to reconsider:

A goodly number are disgruntled local political activists in both major parties who say that it's time the region - which provides the state's largest bloc of voters - gets a stronger voice in statewide politics.

Many of those activists - along with others who aren't pushing any candidate, but are disgruntled nonetheless - complain that Gov. Mel Carnahan, like most of his predecessors over the past 50 years, isn't giving the St. Louis area the attention it deserves.

Carnahan press secretary Chris Sifford, calling such complaints "ludicrous," cites 13 major economic development projects in the St. Louis area he says the governor has assisted over the past two years. In addition, Sifford volunteered a long list of state aid, tax credits or loans for St. Louis area public works projects, including the new Gateway Mall, campus improvements at area public colleges and the expansion of MetroLink. Sifford also cited increased state aid for social programs that primarily affect cities, such as job training and lead poisoning treatment. He added that at least four members of the governor's Cabinet hail from St. Louis.

Sifford's rapid and rigorous response reflects, in part, the reality of Missouri politics: No politician can afford to ignore St. Louis, which provides most of the campaign bucks along with the ballots.

But some pundits add that the local beefs about Carnahan, whether real or overplayed, reflect another truism in state politics:

When it comes to statewide offices, St. Louis politicians rarely get elected. So St. Louis, and often Kansas City as well, have to deal with rural gents like Carnahan.

It's been a decade since any newly elected statewide politician in Jefferson City had a St. Louis or St. Louis County address. It's been 50 years since the governor hailed from St. Louis or St. Louis County.

The worst case is state auditor: it's been 171 years since a St. Louisan snagged that office.

Missouri's political tradition is one of "the country boys playing the shrewder political game," observes former Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton - who may well hold the record as this century's most successful St. Louis area politician when it comes to winning statewide elections.

Eagleton, a Democrat, has held three statewide posts - attorney general, lieutenant governor and U.S. senator. In most of his elections, he adds with a chuckle, he lost 90 or more counties to his GOP opponent. But Eagleton won because he racked up huge majorities in the 10 or so counties he captured. …

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