Could the voters that sent Dick Gephardt to Washington 14 times ever vote for a Republican? 2010 would be the year to do it, and Ed Martin says he’s the Republican who can win Missouri’s Third Congressional District.
“The ideal Republican candidate is a Catholic from the city,” Martin says in a phone interview. By “the city,” he means St. Louis, but he’s also referring to a connection with a working-class culture. The district is populated with working-class Catholics and Lutherans of mostly German descent, New Deal union Democrats. These were faithful Gephardt voters who have given his successor, Russ Carnahan of the state’s prominent Democratic family, healthy margins of victory since 2004.
Not just for this is Martin a long-shot candidate for the seat. He’s somewhat of a political campaign neophyte. “I’ve never even worked on campaigns,” Martin says, though he has lobbied for pro-life and school choice causes in Missouri.
He later served as chief of staff for former Republican governor Matt Blunt (son of congressman Roy Blunt, himself a candidate for the U.S. Senate). Martin is also a lawyer who has worked on behalf of the St. Louis archdiocese. And in an odd marriage of his Cardinals fandom and online savvy, Martin operated whiteyherzog.com, which successfully promoted the baseball great’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
But these days Martin is promoting job creation in the Third District. For his would-be constituents, he says, “the future in this St. Louis area feels really bleak.” Perhaps the July 2008 acquisition of St. Louis brand Anheuser-Busch by the Belgian conglomerate InBev was the region’s first sign of this bleakness. Martin was involved in another petition website, SaveAB.com. He says he wasn’t fighting for the government to step in and stop the InBev buyout, but he says Missourians ought to have had their say on the matter. “There was no sign of Carnahan,” during the Anheuser-Busch sale, Martin says. Instead, Martin says a congressman ought to be a “vocal and prominent and serious person in the community.”
Serious, in particular, about jobs. The InBev buyout marked the beginning of hard times for greater St. Louis. In the fall of 2008, Chrysler shut down one of its assembly plants in the city and cut back on operations at the other. The feds bailed out Chrysler, but Martin says his district doesn’t feel saved. Martin relates the words of one voter as the typical response to government’s corporate welfare: “Why’d we give Chrysler all that money and they moved all those jobs to Mexico?”
And with the federal stimulus, which Carnahan voted for, Martin sees bundle of “missed opportunities.” Instead of using government spending to stimulate the economy, Washington should have been giving money back to taxpayers. “We could have reduced payroll taxes,” Martin says, rather than spending money on programs that have not created jobs.
Other issues concern residents in the district, Martin says, not the least of which is Obamacare, which received another “yes” vote from Carnahan. In early August, voters across Missouri voted overwhelmingly for Proposition C, a referendum that sought to repeal the individual mandate aspect of the federal health care reform law. Martin says it’s a reflection of the state’s uneasiness with Obamacare. “We don’t know what their going to do to our health care freedom,” he says. “Seniors know in their gut that health care reform is not good for them.” Martin says he’d vote to repeal the current law.
Despite the favorable conditions for Republicans and his own aggressive grassroots efforts, Martin is the first to admit this is a tough race. “I’m going to work so hard that we’re going to have every opportunity we can to win,” he said. “It’s not easy to talk to cultural Democrats about voting against their culture.” Winning over these voters may not be easy, but in 2010 it isn't impossible. Don't count Martin out.