Three Democrats in north St. Louis County are seeking to take embattled state representative Courtney Curtis’ seat in Missouri’s 73rd district.
Curtis has served in the Missouri House since 2012 and was eligible to run for a final term. However, he chose not to file for the state representative race because he intended to run for state Senate.
Those plans changed when Curtis was fined $114,000 for violating state-campaign finance laws. The Missouri Democratic Party blocked his attempt to file because he hadn’t paid the fines.
Curtis’ last campaign for re-election was mired in controversy after he supported the right-to-work bill. Three candidates with close ties to organized labor ran against him, splitting the primary vote and allowing Curtis to eke out a victory by 60 votes.
Raychel Proudie, a middle-school counselor, said she was so incensed by the 2016 election, it inspired her to run.
“I was underwhelmed and disappointed at the fact that the issue for House District 73 was one person. So, it really wasn’t about education or health care, the children, our community ... it was about unseating our incumbent. That was extraordinarily disappointing to me.”
In this race, Proudie is running against Floyd Blackwell and Lee Smith. Smith was one of Curtis’ 2016 primary challengers, coming in second. Blackwell is a retired railroad engineer and current alderman for the City of Cool Valley.
All three candidates say lowering crime, increasing funding for schools and bringing economic opportunity into the district are primary concerns. All the candidates are also vocally opposed to Proposition A, known as right to work.
Smith said he views this election as “not only a fight against right to work, but also for a right to live in safe neighborhoods.”
Smith added, “Across the board, we have some of the same issues in all of our municipalities. And it’s about streets, lighting, crime, people moving out, not having an atmosphere to attract new business and entrepreneurship.”
Proudie disagrees. She said voters “feel that there are some parts of the district that are more heard than others.”
Proudie said this makes sense when considering suburbs like Ferguson have vastly different needs than suburbs like St. Ann.
For example, Proudie added, “There’s a huge gap in how the police are perceived. Once you get past the airport, it’s totally different than what you would hear on this side. There’s an inequity and imbalance between one part of my district here in the 73rd and another part.”
There are a total of 11 municipalities in the district. Both Smith and Blackwell have previously been active in local politics — Blackwell as Mayor of Cool Valley from 2000-2004 and current Cool Valley alderman.
Blackwell cites his experience.
“My track record says that I care.” He added, “I’ve been a trade unionist, a teamster and a mayor ... an alderman for the last 12 years.”
Smith has served as part of the Ferguson Neighborhood Policing Steering Committee and the Parks and Recreation Committee.
Both Smith and Blackwell tout their previous experience serving in government roles. But Proudie said she’s tired of hearing her status as a political newcomer being used against her.
“I've gotten the ‘wait your turn’ a lot in this race. I mean, a lot … but I don’t know what we’re waiting on.”
No Republicans have filed in the district, so it’s likely that whoever wins on Tuesday will take the seat in November.
Follow Abigail Censky on Twitter: @AbigailCensky