Pretto running for state legislator again in rematch versus Murphy


Jean Pretto speaks at the Oakville Democrats ODO Fest in October 2018. Photo by Erin Achenbach.

By Erin Achenbach, Staff Reporter

Mehlville Board of Education member Jean Pretto plans to run again in 2020 for 94th District state representative, challenging current Rep. Jim Murphy in a rematch of their close 2018 race.

Pretto calls herself a native Oakvillian, “maybe the oldest one living,” born and raised on Forder Road.

She has been married to Vietnam veteran Jiosue “Joe” Pretto for 48 years. They have two children, Angie and Tammy, who both graduated from Oakville High School in the Mehlville School District.

Pretto, a Democrat, and Murphy, a Republican, are both from Oakville.

“(I’m running again) for the same reasons I ran the last time. I never considered myself a politician but once I started serving on the Mehlville school board, it occurred to me that I might be able to help the school more on a state level rather than a local level,” Pretto said of her decision to seek statewide office once again. “Right-to-work also reared its ugly head again and gave me yet another reason to be part of the opposition to right-to-work.”

Filing opens Feb. 25 for the August primary and November general election for state legislator and other offices.

Pretto, who lost to Murphy by 347 votes in 2018, or 51 percent to 49 percent, said that she doesn’t plan to run her 2020 campaign that much differently than 2018, other than doing “what we did right a little bit better this time.”

“We worked hard last time. We’re going to work harder. We raised a lot of money last time. We’re going to raise more this time,” said Pretto, “We are going to be ready for it this time and hopefully just use lessons that we were taught during the last campaign… I thought we did pretty much everything right last time, and I think the polls indicated that.”

Pretto is no stranger to running for public office and campaigning. In addition to her failed 2018 run for representative, she has successfully been elected to the Mehlville Board of Education in two election cycles in 2014 and once more in 2017. She will also be up for re-election for that seat this year.

The 94th District, which covers parts of Lemay, Green Park and Oakville, is a 50-50 split district and has gone to Republicans in the last three election cycles. The last Democrat to win the office was Vicki Lorenz Englund in 2012, who traded the seat back and forth with the late Rep. Cloria Brown before losing in both 2014 and 2016.

Despite the district turning red for nearly six years, Pretto is confident that she can flip it once again.

“I have one huge advantage, and that is my six years so far on the Mehlville school board and the knowledge that it has given me about public education. My opponent doesn’t have any of that,” she said.

If elected to the Legislature, Pretto said she recognizes the need to work across the aisle, especially with a Republican supermajority in the Missouri House.

“We’re going to have to work across the aisle because the Republicans hold the supermajority unless we get a bunch of Democrats elected,” said Pretto. “I want to strengthen the Democratic team in Jefferson City. I want to be one more domino in their domino set… I don’t pretend that I’m going to go in there and make sweeping changes, particularly in the minority… but if I can help as a team player for that cause I will happily do that.”

The multitasker will also be managing another campaign in 2020, as Pretto seeks to be re-elected to the Mehlville school board. However, she isn’t worried about juggling two campaigns, or the potential to be juggling two jobs as both a board member and state representative if she is elected. Englund held the seat while also serving on the Lindbergh Board of Education.

“I have to use examples of those who have done it before me such as Sen. (Scott) Sifton, (D-Affton), and Rep. Doug Beck, (D-Affton), that have been school board members while serving in Jefferson City,” said Pretto. “So much is done electronically… as far as preparation that can be done ahead of time. I love being on the school board. I really want to serve one more time and then hang it up.”

Pretto formally kicked off her campaign for state representative in January, joining other local Democrats who are also looking to flip Republican-held seats Democratic, such as Erica Hoffman in the 96th District and Englund for state treasurer.

“I just feel like it’s important that people know that I want to be their representative and hear their voices… I’m there for them and I won’t ever ignore a call or not return a message,” said Pretto. “If they want an alternative to what they’ve been getting, that would be me.”