Grassroots politics vs. right-wing money

ST LOUIS – “This is a war of attrition,” said Glenn Burliegh, campaign coordinator for Robin Wright-Jones for state senate. “To win, we have to work harder, fight longer and overcome more obstacles than our opposition. But, we can do it.”

Burliegh was describing the battleground where progressive pro-labor, pro-public schools candidate Wright-Jones is squaring off in the Democratic primary race against a right-wing, anti-labor, anti-public schools candidate Rodney Hubbard in the 5th Senate District, the heart of St. Louis.

Both candidates are African American but Wright-Jones, a woman, is currently a state representative and has the endorsement of numerous labor, women’s, gay and lesbian rights groups, including the state AFL-CIO and Planned Parenthood. Hubbard, on the other hand, has received most of his support and funding from pro-voucher organizations and private developers.

The 5th Senate District is a historically progressive, working class district with a large lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and pro-choice community.

“We have received the support of the vast majority of organized labor, women’s groups, the state’s largest moderate and low income group and the state’s largest LGBT rights organization,” said Wright-Jones.

A Wright-Jones victory would be seen as a major set-back for right-wing forces here. If Hubbard wins, he would work to privatize public education, support private development and weaken unions, especially the teachers union, many progressives say.

While the Hubbard campaign has out-spent Wright-Jones by an 8-to-1 ratio, grassroots momentum is with the latter. Coalition partners like the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Service Employees Union and UNITE-HERE and their volunteers have been knocking doors and phone banking everyday.

“These groups,” Wright-Jones continued, “Make up the backbone of Democratic politics and I’m delighted that St. Louis’ progressive forces have formed a united front and are standing with me, standing for progress.”

Considering Wright-Jones’ one hundred percent pro-labor record, union support isn’t surprising. Her support for families facing foreclosure has also won her the support of many community organizations, including ACORN, who recently organized consumer protection meetings in heavily affected communities. In fact, according to ACORN, St. Louis residents are expected to loose $280 million to home foreclosures this year.

While Wright-Jones’ campaign has truly been a grassroots effort, Hubbard’s campaign has been primarily financed by two individuals, Rex Sinquefield and Paul McKee. Singuefield is a multi-millionaire developer who founded the Show-Me Institute, a free market think tank based in Clayton, Mo. He is also one of the largest funders of so-called school choice initiatives in the region. McKee, on the other hand, is one of the largest absentee landlords in North St. Louis.

Some estimate that Singuefield and McKee combined have poured over $85,000 into Hubbard’s campaign through a web of right-wing political action committees. For example, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Hubbard received more than fifty donations of $675 each (the individual contribution limit) from political action committees funded by Singuefield totaling over $33,000.

With a little over a week to go before the Aug. 5 primary, this campaign is still too close to call.

According to the campaign, the last week will make all the difference. Whoever can knock on the most doors, contact the most voters, and work the best GOTV campaign will win.