(Fred Lynch) [Order this photo]
"We can take this district back," said candidate Todd Mahn, a funeral-home director from De Soto, Mo. "We just have to ask ourselves if we are better off today. We're not the poorest district in the state for no reason."
Mahn, who toyed with the idea of running against Emerson last year, was joined by a growing list of Democratic candidates, including state Rep. Linda Black of Bonne Terre, Mo., chiropractor Jack Rushin of Poplar Bluff and word of new entry Mark Fitchpatrick, a former mayor of Blodgett, Mo.
Fitchpatrick was not in attendance Sunday afternoon, but his wife, Ramona, said he had a prior commitment to his job and that her husband keeps his commitments.
Her husband did not make the decision to enter the race lightly, Ramona Fitchpatrick said, and they discussed the pressures and scrutiny that often come with campaigns.
"We understand our lives will be an open book," Ramona Fitchpatrick said. "We know the media can be cruel and condescending."
The rest of the forum at St. Andrew Lutheran Church focused on the economy, candidate experience, education, agricultural issues and Social Security, during the hourlong forum that was largely a question-and-answer session with the questions predetermined.
Black spoke of her experience in Jefferson City, Mo., where she has been a state representative since 2008. Democrats need to reclaim their message if they hope to reclaim a seat that hasn't been occupied by a Democrat since the early 1980s, she said.
"I'm known to be tenacious in Jefferson City," Black said. " ... Thirty-two years of the Emerson name has not gotten the 8th District anywhere."
She represents, she said, Democrats who are conservative on social issues, and noted that she is pro-life.
"It is possible that Democrats are going to rise again," she said.
The GOP was critical Saturday before Democrats settled on the meeting as a candidates' forum. Going back and forth and being indecisive, said Missouri Republican Party spokesman Jonathon Prouty, is just the latest in a series of missteps that he said shows the party is in disarray.
Last week, the Democratic committee announced they would select their candidate at the Sunday meeting, but then changed the date, without explanation, to Feb. 9. On Thursday, Democratic committee chairman Art Cole announced his resignation. And late Sunday he explained why.
Cole said rumors that he resigned because of frustration weren't true. He said he simply made the decision, at age 71, to cut back and focus his energies on his role as chairman of the state's 25th legislative district. Vice-chairwoman Cindy Jenks will serve as acting chairwoman.
Whether the party's meeting could have been legally closed isn't readily apparent. In Missouri, political party committees are established by state law, including specifics such as when the committees are to meet and that each committee is to name a man and woman to chair and vice-chair positions.
The Missouri Sunshine Law governs quasi-public governmental bodies, in addition to public governmental bodies. Public governmental bodies are defined by the Sunshine Law as any legislative, administrative or governmental entity created by the constitution or statutes of the state or by order or ordinance of any political subdivision or district.
The latest opinion on the matter from a Missouri attorney general came from John Ashcroft in February 1979. It addressed specifics of the voting process. In 1976, Attorney General John Danforth issued an opinion that answered public body and Sunshine Law questions. A copy of the latter opinion is linked on the attorney general's website. However, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Koster's office was not aware of the opinion when the Southeast Missourian inquired Friday about the committees' status as a public body and the Sunshine Law.
2750 N. Westwood Blvd., Poplar Bluff, Mo.