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Government, Politics & Issues

Politically Speaking: Rep. Haefner on taking the leap into the 1st District Senate race

State Rep. Marsha Haefner
File photo I Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
State Rep. Marsha Haefner

On a two-part edition of Politically Speaking, the St. Louis Public Radio political journoduo – Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies – hope to welcome the two announced candidates for the 1st District Senate seat.

First up is state Rep. Marsha Haefner, an Oakville Republican who burst onto the Missouri political scene in 2010 when she captured a House seat previously held by a Democrat. Rosenbaum and Mannies also interviewed the Democrat who had been expected to seek the post: former state Rep. Vicki Englund, D-Green Park. But her podcast won't air because of Thursday's unexpected announcement that state Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, will seek re-election. A Sifton podcast is now being scheduled.

The 1st Senatorial District takes in a big chunk of south St. Louis County, as well as cities such as Brentwood, Maplewood and Webster Groves.  It had been expected to be the state's marquee Senate fight in 2016, since Sifton earlier had announced plans to forego a re-election bid to run instead for Missouri attorney general. Sifton's change in plans, announced Thursday, appears to reflect Democratic concerns about defeating Haefner.

Haefner is a native of Webster Groves who co-owns the popular South County greenhouse, For the Garden. She says the greenhouse brought her instant name recognition when she ran for an Oakville-based House seat in 2010, a race she won by a wide margin. She easily won re-election in 2012 and didn’t have a Democratic opponent in last year’s cycle.

During her time in the Missouri House, Haefner has become a key member of the House Budget Committee, and currently chairs the health, mental health and social services appropriations committee. In 2013, Haefner and Sifton both got involved in the controversy over a low-income senior living facilitywhich eventually got built and opened to full capacity.

Here’s what Haefner had to say on the show:

  • Some Democratic officials tried get Haefner to run under their party’s banner when then-state Rep. Sue Schoemehl left the Missouri House due to term limits. Haefner, though, felt that her positions on economic and social issue corresponded with the Republican Party.
  • Running for the 1st District Senate seat wasn’t an easy decision, especially since she was in line to possibly become chairman of the House Budget Committee. That’s one of the most powerful legislative committees in the Missouri General Assembly.
  • She expects “right to work” to be a major issue during her campaign. She voted for the right-to-work legislation earlier this year that Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed. “I have also served on the economic development committee and have become aware how far behind Missouri is from recovering from the recession,” she said. “The data is clear that we are not capturing the jobs that other right-to-work states are.”
  • Haefner also supported a school transfer bill that Nixon vetoed this year. But Haefner doesn’t expect that measure to come up for an override, mainly because it passed the Missouri House by such a narrow margin.
  • When asked about the high-profile resignations of House Speaker John Diehl, R-Town and Country, and state Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence, Haefner said she found the episodes “distracting” and “extremely disappointing. ... I think anyone working in the Capitol should be able to work there and not have to encounter what some of these young women have encountered,” she said.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Marsha Haefner on Twitter: @MarshaHaefner

Music: “Digital Witness” by St. Vincent

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