The 11th District Missouri state Senate seat has been vacant since August 2015, when Paul LeVota resigned amid sexual harassment allegations involving Statehouse interns.
The Star recommends Jessica Podhola in the Aug. 2 Democratic primary in her race against three other candidates, led by John Rizzo.
Podhola, a former executive director for the Jackson County Democratic Party, is governmental affairs director for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. Rizzo is a state representative who has served since 2011.
Rizzo and Podhola agree on most core Democratic issues. They stress their opposition to right-to-work legislation, support for expanded health care for unserved or underserved Missourians, and support for measures to help senior citizens avoid being taxed out of their homes.
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Awash with cash from unions and trial lawyers, Rizzo has run TV ads, saturated the district with slick campaign mailers and gone door to door. He is touting his experience as a state lawmaker.
In door-to-door encounters and campaign events, Podhola stresses that Rizzo’s insider experience is the basic problem: “For many voters, my lack of legislative experience is a positive; being an outsider who has not previously run for office is a plus.”
Trained as a minister, Podhola rails against the ethics mess she sees in Jefferson City. She says Rizzo is a poster boy for a lawmaker who keeps his hand out. “He was the top recipient in the House of lobbyists’ gifts in 2014,” she said. “Voters deserve better than that. I won’t take gifts from lobbyists.’’
Rizzo has routinely accepted thousands of dollars ($7,315 in 2014) in lobbyists’ gifts, but says his high ranking came because he was scrupulously honest in reporting everything he received.
The other candidates are Anthony Banks and Mary Catherine DiCarlo.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Brent Lasater in November.