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Politician, longtime educator vying for Democratic spot on 148th House District ticket
For one Democratic candidate in Missouri's House of Representatives 148th district race, ideas about government and politics in Southeast Missouri developed through years of teaching the concepts to others. But Mike Marsh said he doesn't really want to be a politician. He just wants to continue to serve, he said, just as he did for 24 years as a high school social studies teacher, during the past year as a member of the Sikeston, Mo., School Board and as the current director of the Sikeston Depot Museum.
Marsh's opponent in the Aug. 7 primary, Bart Ziegenhorn, draws his aspirations for an elected position from his family's political pedigree.
"I was born into politics," he said, "but I don't have an agenda at all. My plan is just to represent the district as a whole."
Bart Ziegenhorn's father Dennis Ziegenhorn is a current Scott County Commissioner and a former state representative. His grandfather also served in the commissioner's role. At 30, Ziegenhorn is the youngest candidate in the race. Age, however, shouldn't matter, he said. He believes he understands the needs and interests of the district, and can help fulfill both. He's been back in the area for six years following college -- he studied political science at the University of Mississippi -- and has gained enough experience for the job by forming many relationships through community involvement in the Sikeston Jaycees and other organizations, as well his job selling insurance and real estate.
In November, Marsh or Ziegenhorn will face the winner of the GOP primary. Josh Bill, a former mayor of Sikeston, and Holly Rehder, a former staffer for Jo Ann Emerson and business owner, are the Republican candidates.
The 148th district includes the eastern part of Scott County and part of Mississippi County.
Marsh's platform includes a major focus on promoting more opportunities for education in the district, especially vocational schools, which he said are much needed to foster a better economy.
"To me everything stems from education," he said. "To get more jobs you better have an educated workforce, and I don't mean just college, because in my time teaching, we had more kids that needed that training than ones that would go to college."
He described improved educational opportunities and outcomes for the district's youth as a "silver bullet" for fixing the economy.
As a school board member, Marsh said he feels all he has been able to do in education as a school board member is cut budgets, which is why he also supports fully funding the state's foundation formula for K-12 schools.
Marsh said he isn't interested in spending money on his campaign -- he has no committee because he has made no attempts to raise money and doesn't intend to.
"I'm not doing it because I'm not for sale," he said. "I want to be held accountable only to the people in this district."
Marsh said living in the area his whole life, having a deep understanding of the diverse makeup of the district's consitituents and being proud of what he has done could pay off instead.
Ziegenhorn said improving education job prospects and the economy overall in the district would be the most important issues for him to tackle in Jefferson City, and that his strategy for improvement would include making sure he was able to come up with solutions based on the input of people who the issues affect most.
With legislation, he said, "you've got to ask the people who the bill affects what they need." He would always call classroom teachers, school district superintendents, farmers, bankers and any other people or groups in the 148th who needed to be represented, he said.
A focus for Ziegenhorn would be to help job growth through attracting businesses by promoting the amount of transportation potential the district offers by way of the river and interstates and highways, he said.
Ziegenhorn's campaign strategy includes meeting as many people face-to-face as possible, he said.
Tuesday he was traveling county roads in the district and knocking on doors.
"I think the most important thing you could do as a legislator is to make yourself available, all the time, however you can," he said.
Ziegenhorn has made more efforts to fundraise than Marsh, but has bought minimal advertising for the election so far. His campaign receipts, according to a recent report to state election officials, total $7,050, and he had around $1,500 still on hand earlier this month.
Contributions include several larger donations from family members, but he also has the support of businesses, he said.
"I'm running a cheap campaign in a new pair of tennis shoes," he said.