Democrats have the very real chance to take back the Missouri House in 2008. If for no other reason, Democrats come out in droves in presidential election years.
We can take it back, and put Rep. Paul LeVota in the Speaker's chair, if we have more Steve Hodges. Hodges is the State Representative in SE Missouri, East Prairie, 161st District. The Southeast Missourian and the East Prairie Eagle recently ran a story that outlined the race in 2006.
When term limits kept Lanie Black from running again for his 161st District Missouri House of Representatives seat last year, a political bout ensued that became a priority for both state party organizations.
In one corner: Gary Branum, a respected New Madrid County farmer running on Black's legacy of agriculture-based Republicanism, with Black as his trainer.
In the other: Steve Hodges, a well-known businessman, substitute teacher, high school football referee and former sports coach from East Prairie, running on a populist message of helping the disadvantaged in one of the poorest legislative districts in the state. Hodges' trainer was former governor Warren Hearnes and his wife, Betty, a statehouse veteran who held a seat for 10 years in what was then the 160th District.
Well, the Republicans are ticked. Republican Party Spokesman Paul Sloca has this to say:
"It's a very important race," Sloca said. "We feel confident about taking that back, because a Republican candidate is going to be running on a strong record of Republican accomplishments" in the areas of education, health care and illegal immigration.
Sloca calls Hodges' seat a "very, very vulnerable" Democratic seat that can be retaken in a "predominantly Republican" area, despite the Bootheel's long history of Democratic dominance.
What have the Republicans done for education, health care and illegal immigration? Higher education costs more in Missouri than it ever has, local school districts (like East Prairie) are getting less from the state funding formula, 100,000 poor folks were kicked off health insurance and the only thing that the Republicans have done on immigration is put Rep. Nathan Cooper (R) in jail for getting his rich Republican clients illegal immigrants to work for them.
Every seat counts. The difference between Republicans cutting Medicare to the poor and Andy Blunt pushing through ticket scalping for his brother to sign into law is putting a Democrat in the speaker's chair. We can't do it by electing Democrats in Brookside. We have to keep Hodges in his seat in the Bootheel. We have to pick up some seats in Clay County and Eastern Jackson County. We do that - while electing Jay Nixon to be our next Governor - and the nonsense stops.