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Photos by Jason Rosenbaum and Bill Greenblatt

In most presidential election years, primary voters in Missouri and Illinois often wouldn’t have that much impact on picking potential commanders in chief.

But 2016 isn’t like most presidential years.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards greets phone-bank volunteer Maxine Clark at Hillary Clinton's St. Louis campaign headquarters Sun. Mar. 13, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

The president of Planned Parenthood says the effort in the Missouri legislature to bar abortion providers from receiving any funds from Medicaid is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Under existing law, state and federal funds can only cover abortions in the case of rape, incest or when it’s necessary to save a woman’s life.

Bernie Sanders exhorts his supporters at a rally at Affton High School to get out the vote.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Democratic presidential Bernie Sanders is banking on Missouri primary backers to provide the campaign boost that he got last week by a surprise victory in Michigan.

Sanders’ stump speech makes a point of reaching out to all ages and all ethnicities. Still, it’s clear that his appeal is particularly strong among those of college-age, many of whom embrace his promise of tuition-free education at public universities and colleges.

Cruz told reporters he believed protesters used their right to free speech to infringe on other's right to free speech yesterday
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz held a rally at Parkway West High School one day after protests interrupted Donald Trump yesterday in St. Louis and caused the New York businessman to cancel a gathering in Chicago.

Before taking the stage Cruz blamed most of that disruption on forces outside the Republican Party.

Hillary Clinton at the St. Louis Carpenters Apprenticeship School in Affton.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Given what happened with the Trump campaign and protests, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to address the Republican frontrunner: “If you play with matches, you can start a fire you cannot control,’’ Clinton said. “That is not leadership. It’s political arson.”

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders tells supporters at Affton High School that he's hoping Missouri gives him a surprise victory in Tuesday's primary.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is banking on Missouri primary backers to provide the campaign boost that he got last week by a surprise victory in Michigan.

“I think we’re going to win a lot of states on Tuesday,’’ Sanders declared Sunday, touching off deafening cheers from the crowd packing the Affton High School gym.

Cruz told the crowd he thought the election would come down to issues of jobs, freedom, and security
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz held a rally at Parkway West High School one day after protests interrupted  Donald Trump yesterday in St. Louis and caused the New York businessman to cancel a gathering in Chicago.

Before taking the stage, Cruz blamed most of that disruption on forces outside the Republican Party.

Bill Greenblatt/UPI

Before renewing her promises to bolster the nation’s economy, Hillary Clinton first launched Saturday into a fiery condemnation of those she said were out to destroy it.

“The ugly, divisive rhetoric that we are hearing from Donald Trump and the encouragement that he has given to violence and aggressiveness is not only wrong, it’s dangerous, my friends,’’ declared the Democratic presidential contender, touching off deafening cheers from the crowd packing the Carpenters’ union training facility in Affton.

A view looking out on the rotunda from the second floor of St. Louis city hall.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio file photo

Starting next session it should be easier to find out how St. Louis aldermen vote on board bills. The Board of Aldermen Friday approved a bill to put a record of their votes online in a searchable database.

Right now votes can only be found online via a PDF of the city’s weekly journal.

Republican Presidential candidate Dontald Trump points to protesters that he tells to "get out," during his speech at the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis on March 11, 2016.
Bill Greenblatt I UPI

Donald Trump brought his wild Republican presidential campaign to St. Louis on Friday, attracting waves of fans – and some loud foes.

The billionaire businessman’s speech in the Peabody Opera House came as voters are focusing on next Tuesday’s primaries in Missouri and Illinois. The contests could solidify Trump’s spot as the unlikely GOP frontrunner for president – or throw the Republican scramble for the White House into more turmoil.

Michael Vadon | Wikimedia Commons

Matt Carlson, a communications professor at Saint Louis University has noticed something in recent months that many may not find quite so curious:

“When I’ve been around more than two adults in any setting, when they talk, it usually turns to Donald  Trump and how his success has manifested itself,” he told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on this week’s “Behind the Headlines.”

From left, Kathy Bernard, Lee Lyons, Jake Gray
Nathan Rubbelke |St. Louis Public Radio

Gene Hutchins is agitated. Alison Lamothe is concerned.

Ahead of Tuesday's Primary Elections in Illinois and Missouri, they represent just two of the many moods voters are expressing when it comes to the choices for president.

Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake Saint Louis, campaigned last year as a proponent of right to work -- even though labor unions have gained a bit of a foothold in St. Charles County.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

A Senate-sponsored constitutional amendment that would shield businesses in the wedding industry from legal repercussions if they denied their services to same-sex couples is headed to the House. The amendment passed 23-7.

House budget chair Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, at right, directs debate on budget bills Tuesday.
Tim Bommel | Missouri House Communications

Missouri's $27 billion state budget is on its way to the Senate.

The House Thursday passed all 13 budget bills, which includes a nearly $9 million cut to higher education.

For that reason, several state representatives voted against the higher ed bill, HB 2003.

Southern Illinois' congressional districts 2016
Wikipedia

On March 15, Illinois residents will find more on their ballots that presidential candidates. Voters will also elect the candidates for its November general election.

Here's an outline of some of the major races in the area. 

Jay Ashcroft
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies are pleased to welcome secretary of state aspirant Jay Ashcroft to the program for the first time.

The back door of St. Mary's Infirmary shows some of the deterioration of the building.
Robert W. Duffy | St. Louis Public Radio

The old St. Mary’s Infirmary is on life support.

St. Mary's -- once a valuable component of the health-care structure of St. Louis and an institution of special importance to the community's African-American population -- has a month left, but after that month has passed, it’s marked for demolition. Even now it is considered an “an imminent threat to public safety."

Wikimedia Commons

Republicans in the Missouri Senate have given first-round approval to legislation that would shield clergy and business owners from state penalties for refusing to work on same-sex weddings.

Democrats had filibustered Senate Joint Resolution 39 nonstop since Monday afternoon, but early Wednesday morning GOP leaders used a procedural move, known as "moving the previous question," to cut off debate and force a vote.

Former President Bill Clinton speaks in support of the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, his wife, at a rally in Bridgeton.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

For 40 minutes, Bill Clinton embraced his image as "explainer in chief" as he laid out a series of reasons he believed his wife is the most qualified and best candidate to be the next president.

His audience Tuesday consisted of several hundred Hillary Clinton supporters, many of them union members and party activists, packing the Machinists union hall in Bridgeton.

A group of more than a dozen activists, including Francesca Griffin and Mauraye Love, 9, center, wore bright safety vests and silently interrupted the council meeting to call on the city to agree to the Department of Justice's proposed consent decree.
Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

The Ferguson City Council appears poised to approve a consent decree with the federal government, which aims to transform the beleaguered city’s police department and government.

It’s a move that could ultimately spare a financially struggling town from costly litigation with the Department of Justice.

Heidi Cruz takes a picture with a supporter at Eckert's Restaurant in Belleville. Heidi Cruz is campaigning across Illinois for GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Inside a restaurant dining room that was packed to the gills, Heidi Cruz gave a promise to Republicans in the Metro East and around the country: Her husband, GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz, could unite a party that appears to be at war with itself.

And she added that the at-times contentious Texas senator can bridge divides without giving up his core beliefs.

Proposition B asks to voters to allow their local city or county to continue collecting sales tax on cars bought out of state
File photo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 3 p.m. March 8 with Trump details -- Former President Bill Clinton will be in St. Louis on Tuesday to campaign for his wife, Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton.

On the Republican side: Donald Trump plans to be in town Friday; Sen. Ted Cruz is slated to be here Saturday to address St. Louis County Republicans, said county GOP chairman Bruce Buwalda. His wife Heidi Cruz was in the Metro East on Tuesday morning.

Mayor Francis Slay, along with officials from his administration and non-profit partners, announces new resources targeted at inmates awaiting trial at the Medium Security Institution on Sept. 8, 2015.
Nassim Benchaabane | St. Louis Public Radio

A six-month-old program designed to prevent young adults from returning to jail has been wildly successful, its supporters say.

St. Louis corrections officials and social service agencies launched Prison to Prosperity in September. It targeted social services and job training to young adults locked up at the city's medium security jail known as the Workhouse and had enough funding initially to help around 100 inmates.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Legislation designed to allow business owners and clergy to refuse to participate in same-sex weddings is being blocked in the Missouri Senate.

Senate Joint Resolution 39 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar the state from "penalizing clergy, religious organizations, and certain individuals for their religious beliefs concerning marriage between two people of the same sex."

Attorney General Chris Koster kicks off his gubernatorial campaign at Missouri Democrat Days.
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

In the latest Politically Speaking podcast, Jo Mannies and Jason Rosenbaum use a different format to focus on Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, the likely Democratic nominee for governor.

Last weekend at Democrat Days in Hannibal, Koster delivered his first major speech since filing for office. Afterwards, he talked with Jo Mannies extensively on a variety of issues – from campaign-finance reform to the Ferguson unrest.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri's proposed $27 billion budget for next year is up for debate this week in the Missouri House.

Last week, House budget writers cut $7.6 million from the University of Missouri System's proposed budget over the way it handled last fall's racial protests and over a perceived cozy relationship with Planned Parenthood. Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, was unable to persuade House budget writers to restore the funding, but he plans to try again this week.

Emanuele Berry
Provided by Emanuele Berry

We originally aired this podcast on what its like to be multi-racial about six months ago. The project was the brainchild of Emanuele Berry, one of the founding producers of We Live Here, and it's still one of our favorite episodes — not just because we miss Emanuele (who is on a Fulbright in Macau, China), but also because the stories and interactions in this podcast are poignant and thought provoking.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger signed the prescription drug monitoring bill into law on Wednesday.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Don’t look now, but St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and company may be trailblazers – at least when it comes to setting up a prescription drug monitoring program.

With the Missouri General Assembly unlikely to approve a statewide drug tracking program, Stenger and the St. Louis County Council gave their blessing to a county database last week. It’s aimed at stopping someone from getting certain controlled substances at multiple pharmacies, which database supporters say is a big precursor to heroin abuse.

Council member Wesley Bell answers questions from reporters.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

A member of the Ferguson City Council says his colleagues will likely reconsider a sweeping consent decree implementing major changes to the beleaguered city’s police department and government.

The move comes roughly a month after the council rejected aspects of the decree, which came about in the aftermath of Michael Brown's shooting death.

Attorney General Chris Koster kicks off his gubernatorial campaign at Missouri Democrat Days.
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 11:45 p.m. March 5 -HANNIBAL, Mo. - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, the likely Democratic nominee for governor, has launched his sharpest public attacks yet against his former GOP brethren when he accused Republican leaders nationally and in Missouri of embracing irresponsible and “economically stupid’’ actions because of their hatred of President Barack Obama.

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