Pat Allen making political history in House race
Monday, July 10, 2006
KENNETT, Mo. -- Pat Allen is the race of her lifetime -- and one that's making history.
The Kennett resident is seeking election to the Missouri House of Representatives in the 163rd district. She's also the first black woman south of St. Louis to ever run for a seat in the house.
State Sen. Maida Coleman, D-St. Louis, said Allen's historical race is significant.
"I definitely think it's time for an African-American woman to come from the Bootheel. When I think of the Bootheel, I can't even think of any women representing that area," said Coleman, formerly of Sikeston.
Allen will face off in the Aug. 8 primary election against Thomas Todd of Campbell, Mo., for the Democratic nod to represent the 163rd district. Kennett resident Keith Mitchell is running unopposed for the Republican nomination in the Nov. 7 general election.
Coleman, who is black, said the race will be tough for Allen. "It's an uphill battle for anyone running for office but particularly when you are the first person to do it," she said.
Campaign fund raising, Coleman said, will be a difficult task. And then there's the political history of the district, which Coleman said has been represented by white males, Democrats and Republicans.
There are several reasons why blacks aren't running for political offices in Southeast Missouri, Coleman said.
"Those who live in the Bootheel suffer from a type of apathy because they are dealing with real issues -- such as how to feed their children, how to pay their rent and whether they have good transportation. They don't have the time nor the desire to get involved in politics," she said.
And those real issues are the reason Allen wants to make history by winning the election.
The 51-year-old was raised by her grandmother after both her parents died when she was a young child. She and her husband, Lacey, raised four children; one died tragically in 1995. After the death of her son, Allen was inspired to attend college. She cleaned homes and worked at Wal-Mart to pay her tuition.
"I understand the working class and understand the problems of the lower-income families," Allen said. "I have always been vocal in the interests of everyone -- no matter what color you are. What it comes down to is the voters should be informed about the candidates when they go to the polls and not bring race into it," she said.
Should Allen win the election, she would join a group of primarily white men in the House of Representatives. Women represent 36 seats on the 162-member legislative body. Of the 36 women, only nine of them are black, representing the St. Louis and Kansas City areas.
"The biggest thing I see in the House of Representatives is a flavor of sexism. I see sexism before I see racism," said Rep. Robin Wright-Jones, D-St. Louis.
Wright-Jones, a black state representative, believes Allen's campaign will encourage more women from Southeast Missouri to run for political offices.
"If she is elected it will open the door but we have to get that woman through the door. Certainly if she wins it will energize women, particularly African-American women," Wright-Jones said.
And that's what Allen hopes will happen regardless of the election outcome.
"We're in the year 2006 and when you consider that 54 percent of the population is female, it's time for us to get qualified females to run for these positions," Allen said.
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