South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Political newcomers Jones, Moore contend for the 93rd District

Candidates of 93rd District say they bring unique ideas
Gabriel Jones, left, and Bridget Walsh Moore, right.

Two newcomers to public office are seeking the 93rd District seat in the Missouri House currently held by Rep. Bob Burns in the general election next month.

Affton residents Bridget Walsh Moore, a Democrat, and Gabriel Jones, a Republican, are vying to represent the district comprised of Lemay and parts of Affton and South City in the general election Tuesday, Nov. 3. Burns, a Democrat from Affton, has represented the 93rd District for the past eight years. He is term-limited and is challenging 6th District St. Louis County Councilman Ernie Trakas for his seat on the council.

Walsh Moore, a customs brokerage agent who was born and raised in Kirkwood and volunteered for various Democratic campaigns in the past, said that with Burns terming out she was encouraged to run for the seat by Rep. LaDonna Appelbaum, D-St. Louis. Walsh Moore made the decision to run a year ago.

“I didn’t like how things were going, and I thought it would be more productive than shouting at the TV,” Walsh Moore said. “If not me, then who?”

Jones, an insurance agent for the Knights of Columbus who grew up in Fulton in mid-Missouri, became interested in running for office after “looking around at the world today” and wanting something better for his four children with his wife, Sarah.

“There’s just a lot of craziness … people on both sides of the aisle who don’t exhibit the leadership that we need in elected officials,” Jones said to The Call. “We are facing so many issues coming down the pipe. … In thinking 30 years down the road about my kids, that’s really what motivated me.”

Walsh Moore has a background she believes would make her unique in the Legislature, especially on health care legislation. After graduating from Bradley University in 2010 with a degree in international studies, where she also studied a semester in Cairo, Egypt, Walsh Moore was living in south St. Louis city when she was diagnosed with stage 3 osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, in 2014. That led to a year of chemotherapy and amputation of her right leg.

Following a full recovery, Walsh Moore and her husband, Greg Moore, moved into South County and the 93rd District.

“The South City bungalow was not really conducive” anymore following the amputation, said Walsh Moore.

Like many things this year, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges to campaigning, preventing large campaign events and face-to-face time with would-be constituents.

Walsh Moore said that despite the fact that her campaign has not been door-knocking, they have done contactless canvassing, dropping literature at 93rd District residents’ homes.

“I have not had a lot of face-to-face time because of COVID but … I’ve made 10,000 phone calls in the district,” said Walsh Moore. “People are worried about COVID. They want it to go away. Everyone’s nervous and there are some frustrations that it’s dragging.”

In part because of her experience with cancer, one of Walsh Moore’s priorities if elected to the House is fully funding Medicaid expansion, which state voters approved with Amendment 2 in the primary election in August.

“I want to uphold the will of the people because it was passed, but also because I am a cancer survivor. … I had a great employer, I was one of the lucky ones with private insurance,” Walsh Moore said. “I think surviving cancer and being a person with a disability really opened up my eyes to the issues in our health care system.”

Jones graduated from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, where he met Sarah, who was from St. Louis. They now have four children, all homeschooled — Robert, Brigid, Liam, and Damian. The family was honored as State Family of the Year in September by the Knights of Columbus Missouri State Council.

After getting engaged, the Joneses moved back to St. Louis because Sarah wanted to be around her family.

“I tell people I’m a St. Louisan at heart. My maternal grandfather went to the old McBride High School which has since closed down, I was baptized in St. Louis. Sarah and I got married here.  St. Louis has been a part of who I am,”  said Jones. “We chose to settle in the 93rd District in the former town of St. George because we wanted something with some charm but also a place where we can raise a family.”

Other than health care, priorities for Walsh Moore include making sure public schools are fully funded in a “manner that makes sense. I want to make sure tax dollars actually get down to the student level.”

Another priority of hers is disability advocacy, in part because of her experience with cancer and amputation.

“It’s something a bit unique to me,” she said. “I want to make sure people with disabilities have access to jobs and aren’t being marginalized.”

Although Walsh Moore would most likely be in the legislative minority if elected due to GOP supermajorities in both the Missouri House and Senate, she has no qualms about making sure legislation gets passed.

“I think there’s a lot of room for meaningful bipartisan legislation. … Everyone needs health care. You can disagree on the finer points but find common ground,” said Walsh Moore. “I’m the lone liberal in the family somewhat, so we find common ground, and same with people with disabilities. People with disabilities don’t all fit into one group. … I want to make sure my hometown is taken care of and well-represented. I love this town.”

Before the pandemic made canvassing and door knocking next to impossible, Jones said his campaign had hit over 23,000 doors and heard from voters on a variety of different issues, including petty and violent crime. The 93rd District includes a small portion of St. Louis city just over the River Des Peres.

“A group of people in the city up along South Broadway made a makeshift homeless outreach during COVID … they were finding needs in the parks and so on. Those are the things people are concerned about,” said Jones. “It’s the crimes, it’s the drugs, prostitution … Law and order, more broadly speaking.”

Other concerns he heard were from senior citizens facing increasing property taxes.

“Property taxes are something people always bring up. They might have made no improvements on their homes or gotten a pay raise but their taxes are going up. My campaign treasurer works at a bank. Without fail every year, they have senior citizens who come take out loans to pay property taxes,” Jones said. “Senior citizens who have theoretically paid off their home are having to take out loans to pay taxes.”

Jones was appointed by former St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson to the  Public Policy Committee of the Missouri Catholic Conference, and while it wasn’t a public office, he feels the experience has given him the necessary skills to head to the Legislature.

“It wasn’t a public office but it was a role … advising Catholic bishops and Catholics on positions to take on legislation as Catholics, like how should we approach this. There were lots of different opinions on varying issues,” said Jones. “I have also worked with government agencies. I was part of the marketing/advertising office with the Division of Tourism.”

He cites his small-town roots as providing a unique perspective for a state that is largely rural.

“Because I grew up in a rural area … I think I can bring that perspective to Jefferson City as a state representative. … I think I have a handle on the things that are impacting us in all these areas,” he said. “There are so many issues out there that impact both rural and urban communities. … I can bring a different perspective to help bridge that divide that is so prevalent in our state and in doing that, bridge the partisan divide. … There’s a lot more we have in common than we don’t.”

And while the 93rd District has been solidly blue for the past eight years, Jones pointed out that if elected, he would be in the legislative majority and have more power to get things done.

“Missouri has a supermajority in the House. … You can elect a Democrat who might not be able to get things done, or you can elect a Republican who has that access. … All my literature says I’m an independent-minded Republican,” said Jones. “I’ve raised … almost five times more than every Republican candidate in this district in the past combined. We’re doing things that haven’t been done and giving Republicans and conservatives in this area a voice they haven’t had in a long time. So that’s what gives me a lot of hope and optimism about this.”

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