The right-to-work proposition may determine who succeeds Missouri state Rep. Marsha Haefner in District 95.
Joe Patterson and Michael O’Donnell – each with different views on Proposition A – are seeking the Republican nomination for the seat that covers portions of south St. Louis County. Haefner, R-Oakville, is leaving the office due to term limits.
Patterson, 32, of Oakville, is a St. Louis County police detective and union president of that department’s chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 111. He opposes Prop A.
“For me personally as a conservative, I believe that government should stay out of private business as much as possible,” Patterson said. “If a private employer – if they choose to have a union shop, and if they and their employees choose to work together collectively and bargain in good faith, that should be a choice that they make on their own, with the government not being involved.”
O’Donnell, 50, of Oakville, works in municipal finance and is a Navy reservist. He supports Prop A, saying that keeping the state’s right-to-work law, which eliminates union membership requirements, will make unions take better care of their members.
“In states where enacted, some unions did close, but some unions grew because they stepped up and did the right things for their members, and they became stronger because of it,” O’Donnell said. “I think there’s a lot of fear mongering going on surrounding Prop A, and I don’t think we’re going to see the unions disappear in the state – I think you’re going to see the good ones get stronger and the ones that aren’t representing the things that their members want, they’re going to have some real challenges.”
O’Donnell and Patterson are both on the Aug. 7 primary ballot, along with Prop A.
Both men voiced support for expanding economic opportunities as a means of insuring south county’s quality of life.
“People worry about jobs coming and going, and about job opportunities,” O’Donnell said. “We see states that are drawing businesses, and we see headquarters [in Missouri], especially in the St. Louis area, leaving. People are concerned about that.”
Patterson is concerned about an aging housing stock and baby boomers retiring and moving out of the area.
“We want to be able to attract business and families back into the area so that we can re-generate for the next generation and make sure that another 25-plus years of prosperity can occur out here in south St. Louis County,” he said.
He added, though, that the “stigma” of unrest in St. Louis and Ferguson has created a poor image that could keep outside investment away from Missouri.
“Some neighborhoods [in metro St. Louis] are doing great, others are doing terribly,” Patterson said. “I want to empower our first responders, our police officers and firefighters, to make sure they have all the skills and tools they need to keep us safe, and then from there we can start tackling some of these problems in these economically disadvantaged communities.”
O’Donnell said one doesn’t need to be a police officer to be a strong advocate for law enforcement.
“Police are there to take care of citizens and make sure they’re kept safe – the animosity and adversarial positioning in some of these communities is unfortunate,” he said. “There is plenty of opportunity to make things better in Ferguson and elsewhere in the state.”
The winner of the August election will face Mike Walter in November, who’s running unopposed in the Democratic primary.
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