ST. LOUIS – Jean Evans (featured – second from right) half-jokingly says she has a selfish reason for wanting to become the next state representative for House District 99: she would like to see her daughter move back to St. Louis.
Evans’ daughter, Danielle, moved to Tusla, Oklahoma, after graduating college a few years ago to pursue new jobs there. The employment in Oklahoma was more lucrative than anything the two they could find in St. Louis or Kansas City or anywhere else in the Show-Me State. That’s a problem for Evans, on a personal level, but to her, it illuminates one of Missouri’s greatest problems: relatively sluggish economic growth.
“I want to try to make a difference in our economy,” Evans said. “I want to do my part to make the state more financially stable and growth-oriented so people like my daughter and my friends’ kids will move back here.
“I want my grandkids to grow up in St. Louis where I raised my daughter.”
In August, voters in the district’s Republican primary determined that Evans would have the right stuff to accomplish that goal. She has worked in the financial services sector for over 25 years, working with small businesses and drafting 401k plans and health insurance options for business owners. She believes that work helped her understand their needs. On top of that, she has also served as the president of the Professional Women’s Alliance of St. Louis, an organization for female entrepreneurs and corporate leaders, and she has advised and even began some startup businesses in the past.
Evans is also a lifelong volleyball player who has coached for a variety of teams in the St. Louis area since her college days. Her current team, Westminster Christian Academy, won a state championship in 2015 under her tutelage.
Conservative Republicans have a strong hold on suburban West St. Louis County. For the last eight years, Rep. Andrew Koenig has represented House District 99, composed of the towns of Manchester, Twin Oaks and Valley Park and outgoing Sen. Eric Schmitt, has also been the consistent red voice for the GOP in the county in that time span as well. The pro-business, anti-regulation, white, lower-middle class voters that comprise the district fit right into the Republican wheelhouse, and Evans promises to be the next representative from the area to fill that mold.
Evans believes that she understands the needs and desires of the district as well as anyone, saying that she is a “typical” resident of the town.
“I feel I reflect the values of the district and I want to take those values to Jefferson City,” she said. “The people here are primarily working and lower-middle class. They want good schools, safe streets and opportunity, which are the same things I want. They want to preserve individual liberty, religious freedom and the ability to grow businesses on their own.”
Evans came out of a difficult primary battle against fellow Republicans Philip Oehlerking, Nicholas Gerth, and Richard LaVoilette. She credited her message touting economic opportunity and her 15 years living in the district as the reason for her victory.
“I respected all my opponents in the primary and to win out of that field felt amazing because they were such strong candidates,” she said.
Her race now against Democrat Bill Pinkston which will likely end up being easier than her primary, though it comes with its own challenges. The most difficult part is that there is little information available about him. He has no campaign website and nothing on social media to suggest online voter outreach. He lost in a general election campaign for the same House seat to Koenig in 2012 by about 19 points.
Aside from that, Evans says she believes Pinkston is a “typical, progressive liberal who doesn’t represent the values of my district.” Given the strength of the Republican Party in that district, chances are slim that he emerges victorious against Evans.