O’Donnell runs for re-election in Oakville’s 95th District, with challenge from Zimpfer

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Rep. Michael O’Donnell, left, and Ann Zimpfer, right.

By Erin Achenbach, Staff Reporter

A retired Mehlville School District teacher is looking to turn a historically red Missouri House district blue in the general election next month.

Ann Zimpfer, a Democrat, is challenging Rep. Michael O’Donnell, R-Oakville, for the 95th District House seat in the general election Tuesday, Nov. 3. The district, which covers the majority of Oakville, has gone to Republicans in every election since it was redrawn to new boundaries in 2010.

O’Donnell was first elected to the position in primaries in 2018, beating his opponent, Joe Patterson of the St. Louis County Police Association. Previously, the seat was occupied by former Rep. Marsha Haefner, a Republican who was term-limited in 2018.

O’Donnell is a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve and works as a fixed income securities trader for an investment firm in St. Louis. His son, David, is a senior at Oakville High School.

Although none of the legislation sponsored by O’Donnell passed in 2020, in part due to that abbreviated session because of the COVID-19 pandemic, his priorities focused on a new form of financing for utility companies, as well as Amendment 3, an amendment on the Nov. 3 ballot to give voters “another choice” on Clean  Missouri, an amendment passed by 62 percent of the vote in November 2018 and restricts lobbyist influence and creates a new redistricting process.

Responding to a question on The Call’s candidate questionnaire, O’Donnell said that he believes approving Amendment 3 is key to the future of Oakville because of its changes to redistricting.

“… Right now, Oakville has someone in the Missouri House of Representatives that is an Oakville resident who is looking out for Oakville interests,” O’Donnell said. “If Amendment 3 doesn’t pass, many residents in Oakville could find their representative lives in the city of St. Louis, Lemay or Webster Groves. Oakville deserves Oakville representation in the Missouri House.”

But Zimpfer opposes the new amendment, which Democrats have dubbed “Dirty Missouri,” saying it will “undo voter support for fair maps and fair redistricting, and would make Missouri the first state in the country that does not count children and non-citizens” in newly drawn districts.

Zimpfer said she initially ran to provide voters a choice.

“At the time there was no Democrat on the ticket for this district, so that was probably the biggest piece that drove me,” Zimpfer told The Call about her decision to run for public office. “I really did not think voters could make a decision without being able to look at two candidates.”

Although Zimpfer has not held public office in the past, she has always been interested in current affairs. Her mother was the president of the League of Women Voters in Cape Girardeau, where Zimpfer is from.

When Zimpfer and her husband, Tim, moved to Oakville about 35 years ago, Zimpfer was a stay-at-home mother but wanted to get back into education after previously teaching in Festus. She started with the Mehlville School District’s Parents as Teachers program and then got back into the classroom at Forder Elementary, then Bierbaum, and finally at Point Elementary where she taught first grade before retiring in May after 25 total years teaching. Her son Travis graduated from Oakville High School.

“I think having been a teacher in this district for so long … I’m a part of this community too. I know the people in this area, I know the concerns, but particularly as a teacher, I know the struggles that the district has had in this area,” Zimpfer said. “People are very … centered on this community, almost like it’s its own town. … People value the fact that you do know your neighbor and … all of these connections over the years are important pieces of this. I feel like I know the people I’d be representing.”

Citing her background as an educator, Zimpfer plans to make education a priority in the Legislature if elected to office, from looking at more funding to class sizes and the best environments for learning, with a focus on early childhood.  Another piece of her platform, advocating for families with members with special needs, hits close to home. Her son Ryan has special needs and graduated from Southview School in the Special School District.

At a town hall last October at Grant’s View Library, O’Donnell appeared beside fellow Republican representatives and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft. O’Donnell, who has a background in municipal security, and Ashcroft both emphasized the importance of not believing everything you read on Facebook because of misinformation campaigns and foreign election interference on social media.

O’Donnell pointed out that at that time, Facebook didn’t police the content of political ads or remove ads containing false information. Facebook will ban political ads after Nov. 3.

“You got a candidate that posted a bogus ad, and Facebook let it ride. They’re not out there policing it themselves,” O’Donnell had said. “Clearly there’s no reason to trust anything you see out there.”