In the non-partisan contest for Trustee of the Junior College District for St. Louis Community College (City and County of St. Louis), subdistrict 3, one candidate, Allison Stenger, has attacked her opponent, incumbent Trustee Joan McGivney, for being (gasp!) a friend of the Tea Party. In a glossy, full-color mailing, Stenger says she will “stand up to Joan McGivney and her Tea Party friends.”
Apparently Stenger regards the Tea Party to be so negative, so repulsive, that she can win votes by tying her opponent to it, even worth fabricating such a connection. I have never seen McGivney at a Tea Party function. Of course, Stenger merely implied, without actually saying, that McGivney is a Tea Partier; the reference was to McGivney “and her Tea Party friends.” So, Stenger must think it’s evil merely to befriend a Tea Partier!
McGivney, Stenger’s opponent, has been a college trustee for just under a year, having won a special election for an unexpired term last year, when she defeated former Claire McCaskill campaign aide (now State Rep.) Bob Burns (D-Lemay). McGivney has 23 years of real-world work experience, including her own small business and 17 years as a Southwestern Bell executive. According to the Webster-Kirkwood Times, her resume is loaded with dedicated public service, having served on her local city council and school board, as a volunteer tutor at OASIS, and as a mentor at St. Louis City public schools. The Times notes that she was Webster Groves Citizen of the Year in 2002.
In contrast, Stenger’s qualifications are pretty slim. She doesn’t even have a campaign web site or Facebook page, probably because there’s nothing to say. Just turned 26, she has been out of school for less than a year. She is a personal injury attorney with the firm for whom she clerked during law school. During that clerkship she married one of the firm’s partners, St. Louis County Councilman Steve Stenger (D-Affton), 41, whose name and photograph appear prominently in her campaign materials. So, she filled in the gaps in her resume by cheap-shotting the Tea Party.
Stenger’s other “qualification” is her willingness to be the pawn of teachers unions, who want to oust the college’s chancellor. Teachers unions oppose McGivney because she acts independently of special interests, including the teachers unions, and bases her decisions on facts. McGivney also acts as a guardian of taxpayers interests, which are often at odds with those of the unions.
From the standpoint of good government, it makes sense that the management of the Junior College District’s multimillion dollar budget is better entrusted to a thoughtful, experienced taxpayer advocate than someone just a year out of school who would owe her election to unions representing the district’s employees.
And from the standpoint of the Tea Party, now it’s personal. Just like the Starbucks CEO’s recent declaration that opponents of same sex marriage are no longer welcome at his stores, Stenger’s pledge to “stand up to Joan McGivney and her Tea Party friends” makes it clear that Stenger does not want Tea Party votes. And McGivney’s taxpayer advocacy and independence from special interests also make her attractive to Tea Party supporters, even if she isn’t actually a member.