148th race pits Republican Rehder, Democrat Ziegenhorn

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

One candidate has the pedigree, coming from a family with a long history of political involvement in Scott County.

The other has the professional experience, having spent time as a campaign staffer and a lobbyist.

The race for the redrawn 148th House District seat presents a stark contrast for voters. Democrat Bart Ziegenhorn is the son of Scott County Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn, who also has been a state representative for Sikeston, Mo., and the surrounding area. Republican Holly Rehder is a business owner who has spent plenty of time in politics. She has worked as a campaign staffer for Rep. Jo Ann Emerson and as a lobbyist in Jefferson City.

Will voters choose the hometown man from the well-known family, or the woman with plenty of experience and institutional knowledge?

If the past few election cycles are any indication, geography could be an advantage for Rehder. When mulling which district to run in after redistricting last year -- inasmuch as residency requirements are relaxed for each election cycle immediately after redistricting -- Rehder chose the new 148th with a purpose. In the 148th, Republican voters seem to outnumber Democrats, whereas their numbers are fewer in the neighboring 149th, in which Rehder had thought about running.

Bart Ziegenhorn

The new district is made up of a large chunk of the old 160th -- eastern Scott County and Mississippi County -- where Republican Rep. Ellen Brandom dominated, not facing a challenger in 2008 or 2010. Before her, Republican Peter Myers enjoyed a long period of dominance.

Ziegenhorn and his supporters know getting elected as a Democrat to the state House is a lot harder than it used to be in Southeast Missouri. But they say Ziegenhorn, who studied political science at the University of Mississippi and now works as a Realtor in the family company and as an insurance broker, has the conservative bona fides -- and the connection to the community -- to win next week.

"I'm conservative when it comes to spending money," Ziegenhorn said. "I mean, you can't spend money you don't have. We all live on a budget in our personal lives, and you have to take that aspect to government."

Holly Rehder

Ziegenhorn says he's "conservative in most areas." For instance, he's a lifelong hunter who supports gun rights.

Steve Taylor, a prominent Sikeston lawyer, family friend and campaign supporter, labeled Ziegenhorn a "Blue Dog Democrat" in the same vein as his father and grandfather. Turner said Ziegenhorn also has the advantage of having grown up in Sikeston, the district's biggest community. He has been active in the leadership of civic organizations including the Jaycees, Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA and others.

He'll likely need those connections to beat a well-heeled challenger with larger campaign coffers and inside political experience gained from working on campaigns and as a lobbyist.

Rehder, who with her husband owns cable company Integrity Communications, worked on Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's campaigns and Brandom's 2006 bid. She had a three-year stint as a lobbyist with the Missouri Cable Television Association.

Rehder also has powerful support behind her. Emerson endorsed her the day after Rehder won the August primary, and has accompanied her on many campaign events since then. Brandom also appears in ads for Rehder.

Emerson called Rehder a "wonderful staff person" and a "relentless campaigner."

"She'll prove just as relentless working for her constituents in Jefferson City," Emerson said in an emailed statement.

Other Rehder endorsements include business groups Missouri Club for Growth, National Federation of Independent Business, Missouri Chamber PAC, NRA and Missouri Right to Life.

Ziegenhorn offered few specifics about his policy goals for Jefferson City, and as a freshman representative in the minority party, his influence would be limited. But he pledged to closely examine spending. He has said he doesn't favor raising taxes and promised to work to recruit jobs to his district and keep those already there.

Rehder declined to be interviewed for this story, but in past interviews has identified changes to the state's prevailing wage law, making Missouri a right-to-work state and civil litigation reform like so-called loser-pays rules as her priorities.

"I firmly believe we need people in office that have proved themselves in the private sector, in the real world, before they begin making decisions that the rest of us will have to live with," Rehder said in a prepared statement. Rehder said her life experience -- supporting herself since age 15 and building a business with her husband -- will help her be the best representative.

She enjoys a large fundraising advantage over Ziegenhorn, with almost $19,000 collected from Oct. 1 to 25 and nearly $91,000 collected so far during the campaign, according to the latest campaign finance reports, which were due Monday. Her contributions came from a mix of organizations, with giving from PACs and companies, and individuals, including a contribution from Southeast Missourian owner Gary Rust.

Ziegenhorn, whose report was filed late Tuesday afternoon, had collected $3,250 in the latest period and a little more than $20,000 overall. His contributions primarily came from individuals.

msanders@semissourian.com

388-3652

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