Man thwarted in committeewoman run

Friday, April 2, 2004

CLAYTON, Mo. -- His sights set on being a Chesterfield Township Republican committeewoman, Christian Tompras filed by Tuesday's deadline for the post on the Aug. 3 ballot, only to see the paperwork rejected.

The reason? Tompras is a man, and state law mandates that only a woman can run for the post.

Tompras -- a married, 43-year-old Saint Louis University law student -- isn't sitting still for that. With his attorney Howard Shalowitz, he plans to sue, alleging that Missouri's committeeman/committeewoman setup violates federal and state anti-discrimination laws.

"This is a nonpartisan, nongender issue," said Shalowitz, a Democrat who also is president of the St. Louis area's bar association.

For decades, Missouri voters have elected people to the companion four-year posts of Democratic or Republican committeeman and committeewoman. In the city, they're elected by wards; in St. Louis County, by township.

Committeemen and committeewomen are the state parties' chief local operatives. Party leaders say the posts are split equally between men and women to give both genders an equal say in how the parties are governed.

To Shalowitz, voters should be able to elect the two best candidates, regardless of gender.

"This is no different than if ... one had to be African-American and one white, or one had to be under 50 and one over 50," Shalowitz told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for the paper's Thursday editions.

Shalowitz said Tompras filed for committeewoman because he thought his qualifications were superior to those of the two women candidates. Tompras had a higher regard for the qualifications of the two male candidates for committeeman, Shalowitz said.

John Hancock, a state GOP consultant running unopposed for Lafayette Township committeeman, said Tompras would do better to lobby the Legislature.

"There are more direct ways to address the law than filing as a man for the position of committeewoman," Hancock said.

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