Key Battle In District 2 For U.S. House Seat
Control of Congress will be decided in suburbia on Nov. 6, political experts argue. The 2nd Congressional District, which takes in most all of St. Louis County — including parts of Jefferson County on the south and St. Charles County on the north — fits the bill as a key district in the battle for control of the U.S. House.
Incumbent Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, is counting on GOP tax cut policies and a strong economy to inspire voters to give her another term. Challenger Cort VanOstran, D-Clayton, argues that the district's residents aren't impressed by tax cuts that favor the top one percent.
"The tax cut that Ann Wagner and the Trump administration pushed through cost almost $2 trillion, and most people in our district won't see a penny of that," said VanOstran. "I believe that we need to reform our tax code to help promote growth in the U.S. and to create the sort of economy that will compete globally in the 21st century.
"We should not be writing a blank check to the wealthiest Americans – and sticking our kids with the bill," he added.
Wagner said the U.S. is experiencing record economic growth under President Trump. She said businesses across the district are providing more opportunity for Missourians, and the unemployment rate is at a record low.
"We are accomplishing our goal of ensuring that every hard-working American can realize their own American Dream," Wagner said. "The average family in this district is taking home $3,700 more of their hard-earned paychecks because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act."
VanOstran said real evidence that Missourians know working people are feeling shortchanged came on Aug. 7 when voters shot down Right-To-Work by a two-thirds majority. He said employees want a living wage and safety in their places of work.
He said he has been vocal in his support of the Nov. 6 state ballot issue to raise the minimum wage. He said Republicans at the state and national level oppose worker pay guarantees.
"I believe lasting wage growth comes from a strong economy and a robust private sector," countered Wagner. "My goal in Congress is to promote the wage growth we have seen across our country over the past two years. In fact, in July of this year, worker pay hit its highest level since 2008. We are experiencing 4 percent economic growth when the previous administration told us that 1 to 2 percent was the new normal."
Guns and Health Care
Two issues that are on the minds of suburban women this election cycle, according to pollsters, are incidences of gun violence and rising health care bills and pharmaceutical costs.
"Gun violence is a horrific injustice, and as a mother and legislator, my heart is broken for all the families and students who have been impacted by school shootings," said Wagner. "Regarding Congress's role to address tragedies like Parkland, we have and will continue to respond.
"Earlier this year, we passed legislation like the FIX NICS Act that modernizes the National Instant Criminal Background Check System," Wagner said. "We must examine where there were breakdowns in the government agencies that are tasked with protecting us and figure out how the disturbed young man who committed the Parkland shooting and others slip through the cracks."
According to VanOstran, proposals to arm teachers for school safety, as espoused by Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss, show that Republicans are out of touch with most Americans on gun violence issues.
"The idea of arming teachers is just an embarrassing proposal," said VanOstran. "I believe in the Second Amendment, but there are some places that guns just don't belong, like schools, churches, parks and restaurants.
"That's why Congress must take long overdue action on common-sense gun reform. Universal background checks, imposing magazine capacity limits, and keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers are just a few initiatives that I believe can help solve the gun violence epidemic in our country," he stressed.
On health care, VanOstran said that programs like the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have gained in popularity since the initial fight to get it passed in the previous Obama administration.
"Ann Wagner has voted repeatedly to undermine the Affordable Care Act, depleting protections for people with pre-existing conditions and causing premiums to skyrocket," he said. "I will work to strengthen and improve the ACA, expand Medicare and Medicaid, and protect coverage for pre-existing conditions."
Wagner said protecting people with pre-existing conditions is one of her top priorities, which is why she is an original cosponsor of the Pre-existing Conditions Protection Act which was introduced in February of 2017.
"This bill maintains protections for people with pre-existing conditions, even if Obamacare is repealed," she said. "I am also an original co-sponsor for Maintaining Protections for Patients with Pre-Existing Conditions Act.
"We need to overhaul our broken health-care system. I firmly believe we must lower premiums and stabilize turbulent health insurance markets by improving choices and encouraging wider coverage for all by creating innovative, patient-centered coverage options," Wagner explained.
Safety and Security
Illegal immigration and the flow of human trafficking are major concerns in the district, according to Wagner. She said we need to secure our borders, defund sanctuary cities, and fix a broken immigration system. Both Wagner and VanOstran said families should be kept together when processed at the border.
"Folks here hate seeing families ripped apart at the border, and they understand the needs of people seeking asylum from violence and oppression," said VanOstran. "We need comprehensive immigration reform that includes border security. We must make investments in high-tech surveillance at the border, prioritize safety for those seeking asylum from turmoil in their home countries, and respect the dignity of those who come to the United States."
Wagner opposes Clean Missouri on the state ballot on Nov. 6. VanOstran favors it and would like to see many of its tenets adopted at the federal level.
"I fully support the Clean Missouri initiative," said VanOstran. "Our Congress should also adopt measures to increase transparency and integrity in our politics. I'm endorsed by End Citizens United, the premier campaign finance reform group in the country, and I have committed to refusing any donations from corporate PACs because we must stop drowning out real peoples' voices in our political process."
Wagner said Clean Missouri has some important components of ethics reform, including a ban on nearly all lobbyist gifts, a requirement to make legislative records public, and a two year ban on elected officials from becoming lobbyists.
"However, I have major concerns about the funding behind the so-called Clean Missouri' initiative," said Wagner. "Countless news organizations have documented its financial support coming from 'dark money' from all over the country. And it seems like a targeted attempt to take the ability to draw district lines away from the people's representatives and give it to an individual selected by a partisan political position."
Wagner is married and has four children and one grandchild. A Ballwin resident, she is a graduate of Cor Jesu Academy and holds a BSBA from the University of Missouri.
VanOstran is 30 and lives in Clayton. He graduated from Harvard University with a degree in government and later earned a law degree from Washington University.