90th District candidates share similarities, differ on issues


KIRKWOOD, Mo. – The 90th House District race is unusual. Not only are both party candidates women, but in this case they are women with surprisingly similar careers both chasing a seat being vacated by Rep. Rick Stream. The district embodies much of Kirkwood and surrounding areas and leans slightly Republican by less than a percentage point. Both Republican Gina Jaksetic and Democrat Deb Lavender come from the healthcare field and both told the Missouri Times that healthcare, as well as the economy and education, is an issue that they hope to work on if and when they come to Jefferson City.

Deb Lavender
Deb Lavender

Deb Lavender reported some of the highest numbers for a candidate in July, reporting $120,313.84 on hand. This is Lavender’s fourth run for the seat. She rose over $87,000 in her bid in 2010 and over $118,000 in 2012, with many repeat donors and support from fellow Democrats and liberal committees, as well as donations from her business. Lavender fell barely 300 votes short of unseating Stream in 2012. Other than her involvement in the Rotary since 1985, Lavender’s community involvement picked up substantially in 2011, including support for a community garden, 50 Trees for 50 Years, and several other clubs and organizations.

Jaksetic has $57,251.11 on hand, which is much more than the majority of districts for the lower chamber cost to win. In 2012, Jaksetic won her second term as a Kirkwood city councilwoman. Before being elected to the city council, Jaksetic started serving on the library board. Despite her recent political journey, Jaksetic says that it was not her “lifelong dream” to be in politics.

And while both candidates have their careers and their significant fundraising in common, that’s where the similarities end. Jaksetic has the endorsement of Missouri Right to Life, while Deb Lavender has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood and has accepted money from EMILY’s List.

One issue the candidates opinion on improving the economy slightly differ. Whereas Lavender specifically mentions tax credit programs for businesses on her website,

Gina Jaksetic with family
Gina Jaksetic with family

Jaksetic shared that government needs to be decreased and regulations lessened.

“Lavender will work for tax credits for businesses that create jobs in Missouri but end tax credits for businesses that ship our jobs out of state or overseas,” reads her campaign website.

“Government has to somehow be reeled in,” Jaksetic shared. “The impact is so great. Regulatory burdens really impact us doing what we really need to do.”

When asked what dream legislation she would sponsor, Jaksetic said she would do something to reduce bureaucracy. Lavender’s website mentions her stance on several issues, but makes a promise that if elected, she will introduce legislation to “decrease the size of the State House by 25%.” The site says that “this will save Missourians millions of dollars in salaries, overhead and pensions!”

Both candidates touted their experience in healthcare as being an asset for when they begin legislating. Jaksetic is currently the Senior Director of Reimbursement at a retail pharmacy with a degree in nursing from Vanderbilt University, while Lavender also has a degree in nursing, but owns her own physical therapy company, where she shares she assists clients with their insurance paperwork.

Regarding education, the 90th District sits not far off from struggling districts that are at the forefront of the transfer war. Rep. Stream sponsored the somewhat controversial transfer legislation this past session. Both Jaksetic and Lavender emphasize the importance of education and a need to improve and look at solutions so that the state can provide and support quality education.

Jaksetic and Lavender do not have primaries and will meet in the November 4 general election. Despite a gap in fundraising, the race is still considered a toss-up by state political minds.

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Rachael Herndon is the editor at The Missouri Times, and also produces This Week in Missouri Politics, publishes Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosts the #moleg podcast. She joined the Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer. Rachael studied at the University of Missouri - Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children. To contact Rachael, email rachael@themissouritimes.com, or via Twitter @TheRachDunn.