Wagner, Koenen Vie To Take Akin's Old Seat | St. Louis Public Radio

Wagner, Koenen Vie To Take Akin's Old Seat

Oct 26, 2012

Missouri’s newly-formed 2nd Congressional district has two first time candidates vying for Republican Congressman Todd Akin’s seat, which he will be vacating. The two main candidates have very different ideas of the role of government, and very different backgrounds.

Although this is Ann Wagner’s first time with her name on the yard signs, she is by no means a political rookie.

She’s had experience as chair of the Missouri Republican Party and Co-chair of the Republican National Committee. She was also the U.S. ambassador to Luxemberg for 4 years in the late 2000s.

But Wagner says running her own campaign isn’t the same.

“It’s so different," Wagner said. "It’s so much more personal to be honest, and I’ve been in politics for 20 years.”

Democrat Glenn Koenen, on the other hand, has worked most of his life for non-profits. He stepped down from his executive director position at Circle of Concern, a food pantry in Valley Park.

Emotional and Monetary Support

Koenen doesn’t have the same political connections as Wagner, and he certainly doesn’t have the funding of his political party like Wagner does.

“Emotional support? Yes.  Monetary support? Not so much," Koenen said. "But I understand that. It’s a challenging year for Democrats.”

But emotional support doesn’t buy TV time.

According to the most recent campaign finance reports, Wagner has amassed a formidable $2.4 million.

Koenen, meanwhile, has only 1/100th of that. Koenen for Congress has raised $24,000, and that includes a $10,000 loan.

Koenen hasn’t been able to afford expensive television ads. Instead, he’s had to post his campaign videos on Youtube. But those videos have views in the hundreds, while Wagner’s campaign ads get thousands of TV viewers.

And so Koenen has had to rely heavily on cheaper forms of campaigning.

“Hi, I’m Glenn Koenen, I’m running for 2nd Congressional district,” Koenen said as he approached a few people at a bar in St. Charles.

But the men that were approached didn't know if they lived in the 2nd district since lines have been recently redrawn.

Redistricted, but Reliably Republican

The 2nd congressional district has been held firmly by the Republican party since Jim Talent was elected in 1990. Political scientist Dave Robertson says redistricting has changed the makeup of the district only slightly.

“It’s a little bit less Republican, but it still should be reliably Republican,” Robertson said.

Democrat Russ Carnahan was left without a Congressional seat after redistricting. He had the opportunity to run in the 2nd district, but figured it would be too challenging to run as a Democrat, considering the conservative nature of the district.

Koenen says redistricting is big and recurring obstacle he’s had to face. He says voters not knowing which district they vote in was a problem during the primary, too.

“Even on election day, I was at a polling place, people didn’t realize what district they were in," Koenen said. "(It's) rather discouraging.”

At a Wagner event in Crestwood, a table at the entrance was lined with Republican schwag -- Romney/Ryan stickers, Dave Spence pamphlets, and a conservative voter’s guide.

But displayed prominently among the paraphernalia was a map of St. Louis, and the newly drawn district lines.

But Wagner says informing the electorate on the district lines hasn’t been a problem per-se.

"Well, not a problem," Wagner said. "It's just something you have to explain and something you have to get used to."

The Role of Government

And when it comes to the role of government, these two candidates have stark disagreements.

"One of the first things I learned at Circle of Concern was that the people seeking help were just like the rest of us, except for a little bit of luck," Koenen said. "The things that separate us from other people are not as great as we'd like to think. One of the big roles of government is to protect us from the worst in life."

But Wagner views the role of government differently.

"I'm not for big government. I'm for a smaller, more limited government," Wagner said. "The government overreach is what has happened in health care."

Koenen supports the Affordable Care Act, while Wagner says it should be repealed.

Wagner does mention she would like to preserve the ability for children to remain on their parents’ health care plan until 26, and possibly keep the ban on pre-existing conditions -- two popular aspects of the law.

In terms of the debt, Wagner advocates a 10% cut in government spending, excluding defense programs.

Koenen would like to reign in defense spending and says he would like to have the tax rate return to where it was during the Clinton-era.

The two frontrunners are joined by Libertarian Bill Slantz and Constitution Party candidate Anatol Zorikova. Slantz advocates a repeal of all taxes except for a federal sales tax. Zorikova would like to ban corporate lobbying and campaign contributions.

Below you can see the new 2012 district lines. Click here to use an interactive map to zoom in to your location, or to see how the district has changed since 2010.

Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter@csmcdaniel

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