The Second Congressional District was intentionally redrawn by the Republican legislature in 2010 to take voting power away from Democrats in St. Louis County and shift it towards Republicans in this area of the St. Louis region. The new lines were thought so unfavorable to Democrats in 2012 that Russ Carnahan opted instead to challenge Congressman Lacy Clay in the First Congressional District, a move we criticized at the time. That is why it is all the more impressive that a progressive upstart like Cort VanOstran is now mounting a vigorous challenge to win the seat from three-term Republican incumbent Ann Wagner.
VanOstran is a perfect Democratic foil to the archconservative Wagner, who votes with President Trump a whopping 98% of the time. His platform focuses on protecting and strengthening the Affordable Care Act, investing in public education, and bringing jobs back to the St. Louis region. He is a powerful advocate for criminal justice reform and has committed to taking major steps to tackle gun violence.
Although VanOstran is a political newcomer, it has not stopped him from assembling an impressive coalition of support. VanOstran is supported by many names our readers know well and respect, including former State Senator Rita Heard Days, Former County Executive Charlie Dooley, County Assessor Jake Zimmerman, State Senator Jill Schupp, and State Representatives Stacey Newman and Tracy McCreery, all powerful, progressive voices. He has earned the endorsements of NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Teamsters, the United Autoworkers, the Young Democrats, and End Citizens United, a national organization dedicated to taking corporate money out of politics.
VanOstran has made a district once thought unwinnable by a seasoned politician like Carnahan into a flippable district in 2018. He has already raised more money than any prior Democratic nominee has in the entire election cycle and more than doubled the combined efforts of his Democratic opponents. He has even outraised his incumbent opponent in two consecutive quarters, all while rejecting corporate PAC money and relying largely on small individual donations. In February, the Cook Political Report shifted the race towards Democrats after citing VanOstran’s fundraising success, and just this past month President Obama’s Organizing for Action group included VanOstran’s race among the 27 Congressional districts on its November “hit list.”
VanOstran is no stranger to fighting against the odds. He was raised in rural Missouri by a single mother after his father died when he was just eight years old. Despite those challenging circumstances, VanOstran went to Harvard University on a scholarship from the Elks Club before returning to law school here, becoming a successful attorney and working under the tutelage of several prominent local judges. Then, two years ago, VanOstran lost his mother to a battle with breast cancer. At the time, she was insured by an Affordable Care Act plan. It was the loss of his mother and President Trump’s efforts to slash the very health care plan his mother depended on that steeled his determination to protect the voters of his district from further attacks on the Affordable Care Act.
While most of VanOstran’s primary opponents share his progressive vision, VanOstran is the only one who has demonstrated the earnestness, confidence and power to turn that vision into a reality. VanOstran has already opened two campaign offices in the district and recruited dozens of volunteers who work daily to deliver his good-government message to voters. His Facebook page boasts a weekly schedule of events where he meets with the voters of the Second Congressional District, a subtle jab at his Republican opponent who has never held a town hall in her district. While his Democratic opponents have made the obligatory appearances at public events, VanOstran has steadily outworked and out-organized his opponents to put his district back in play for the first time since it was redrawn. As VanOstran’s yard signs begin to pop up all around the District this week, we believe that his infectious enthusiasm, tireless work ethic, and firm commitment to show up in all the places his Republican opponent hasn’t will carry him to a groundbreaking victory in November.
At a time when many feel powerless to challenge the injustices being carried out by President Trump, who NY Times columnist Charles Blow rightly calls a “lying, bullying, womanizing autocrat-idolizer,” VanOstran’s race presents an opportunity for voters in our region to help shift the balance of power in Washington and provide a powerful check on the Republicans’ regressive policies. It is an opportunity we cannot let go to waste. The era of Trump shows that elections have consequences and not voting has consequences. We strongly endorse Cort VanOstran for Congress in the Second Congressional District.