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99th District

Democrat Trish Gunby (left) and Republican Lee Ann Pitman (right) were candidates in Tuesday's election to fill a vacant Missouri House seat in west St. Louis County. Photos courtesy of their campaigns.

State political observers will eye the results of Tuesday’s special election race for a west St. Louis County seat in the Missouri House for insights on the suburban electorate going into the 2020 election season.

Democrat Trish Gunby faces Republican Lee Ann Pitman in the race for the House seat in the 99th District, which includes municipalities such as Ballwin, Manchester, Twin Oaks and Valley Park.

Both campaigns are focused on revving up their voters ahead of the contest.

“We know where our supporters are, and we’re just trying to make sure we get them to the polls on Tuesday,” said Scott Dieckhaus, campaign manager for Pitman.

“We’ll be out in force every day — including Tuesday,” Gunby said.

Former state Rep. Jean Evans won the district twice before resigning earlier this year to lead the Missouri Republican Party. But Democrats have also succeeded here — including former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, who carried the district in 2018 despite ultimately losing her reelection bid.

Pitman, an accountant, has focused on workforce development issues and has said the district should send conservative representation to Jefferson City.

Gunby, who left her marketing career in the 1990s to stay at home with her two children, has embraced key Democratic planks such as protecting abortion rights and instituting universal background checks for gun purchases — things many Democrats running in swing districts have not focused on.

The district has been inundated with direct mailers, canvassers, radio advertisements and other get-out-the-vote efforts ahead of Election Day.

Neither side is confident of a win.

“Special elections are really tough to predict,” said Dieckhaus, who has worked for Republicans on numerous state House races.

Other House races

Metro-area voters also will decide two other House races on Tuesday, but both are in heavily Democratic areas and the Republican Party didn’t bother to put a nominee on the ballot.

In the 74th District in north St. Louis County, Democratic nominee Mike Person of Ferguson faces Nick Kasoff, also of Ferguson, from the Libertarian Party.

Person, an Ameren employee and the Ferguson Township Democratic committeeman, served on the Riverview Gardens School Board from 2004 to 2007. He later ran unsuccessfully for the Ferguson-Florissant School Board in 2015 and the Ferguson City Council earlier this year.

Kasoff, an IT consultant, ran unsuccessfully last year for St. Louis County executive.

They are running for the seat formerly held by Democrat Cora Faith Walker of Ferguson, who resigned to become director of policy for County Executive Sam Page.

In the 78th District in St. Louis, the only candidate on the ballot is Democrat Rasheen Aldridge, the 5th Ward Democratic committeeman.

Aldridge, an employee in the city recorder of deeds office who was a member of the Ferguson Commission, is running to succeed fellow Democrat Bruce Franks. Franks in announcing his resignation said he did so to focus on his mental health and his family and that he was planning to move to Washington.

In addition, Mark Comfort, the 20th Ward Republican committeeman, has registered as a write-in candidate.

“I expect Rasheen Aldridge to win handily,” he said. “I’m thinking about moving to St. Louis County anyway.”

The 78th takes in downtown and stretches along the Mississippi River to the Dutchtown area on the south and the Old North St. Louis neighborhood on the north.

Tax propositions

Also on Tuesday’s ballot will be a handful of proposed tax increases, most of which have been rejected previously:

• Voters in Jennings will consider a half-cent sales tax increase to pay for a new city hall and community center to be built on 6.5 acres on the site of the old River Roads shopping mall.

The community center likely would include indoor and outdoor tracks and meeting spaces. Plans call for the existing city hall building to be turned into a strip shopping area.

If passed, the overall sales tax in Jennings would increase to at least 9.488 cents from 8.899 cents.

• In St. Ann, voters will decide whether to set up a citywide transportation development district. The district could levy a sales tax of as much as 1% to repair, rebuild and maintain the city’s streets and sidewalks. The revenue also could be used for street tree removal.

In addition, if the measure passes, city officials say they will reduce the city property tax by 5 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

• St. Charles and Cottleville officials are seeking new 2% city taxes on out-of-state purchases that would be paid mainly by businesses.

An estimated $1.4 million annually would be raised in St. Charles and earmarked for that city’s police and fire departments from the tax, called a use tax. Cottleville’s use tax would generate about $65,000 a year for various city services, including police, street work and park upgrades.

• Voters in the Wright City and Warrenton school districts will decide whether their areas should join the St. Charles Community College District.

The proposition also calls for a property tax increase of 16.66 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

The revenue would be used to begin technical training programs in Warren County and eventually a training facility in the county.

In addition, joining the college district would enable residents in the two school districts to qualify for in-district tuition at the college. That would result in an estimated savings of $3,264 toward an associate degree.

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