ST. LOUIS — Rea Scharnhorst has high hopes for the coming election — not for her husband this time, who she has stood behind in the last four cycles, but for herself.
It has been a few years since Scharnhorst, 42, said she decided this run would be a good opportunity for her, and that planning involved a lot of discussion with the district’s current seat holder: her husband, senior Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst.
Different from most, if not all, candidates, Scharnhorst will have gathered nine years of experience at her husband’s Chief of Staff — an unpaid position — since he came in on a special election in early 2006.
“I know everybody in the district and everybody in the Capitol,” Scharnhorst said. “I think I have the experience beyond what a lot of people would have if they live in the district and want to run for state representative.”
With about 30 years of retail experience as well, Scharnhorst said she thinks her past and present opportunities will benefit her, including her roles as a mother, stepmother and grandmother.
Family is, and would continue to be, a big focus area for Scharnhorst, she said, as it’s not only something she is familiar with, but passionate about in terms of being able to empathize.
“I want to help families somehow, but I haven’t found how, specifically,” she said. “All I know is that families are struggling. I’ve been through a lot with an ex-husband and having a new family. Everyone’s problems aren’t the same, but I have a window there of understanding.”
Among the issues, in and outside of that realm, that she hopes to work on include furthering her husband’s work with children who have autism, to start discussing ways to limit the regulations on adoption within the country and, above all, listening.
“Sometimes, people come in and they may know there is never a fix for [their problem], but they just need someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on,” she said.
Looking ahead, the biggest challenge is time, Scharnhorst said. Between her full-time job at a local bank, the photography business she and her husband run out of their home and her work as his Chief of Staff, time management will be challenging, yet still possible.
Dwight, Rea’s husband and a term-limited representative, said half the battle is networking, and that’s something he thinks his wife has already accomplished. He said he has made an effort to already tell both candidates for Speaker of the House that they could be getting a freshman that could chair a committee and has the knowledge-base of a first-year junior.
“She’s got just as much experience as I’ve got, she just doesn’t stand on the floor, take the pledge and press the button,” he said.
Currently no one else has publicly discussed plans to run against Scharnhorst from either side of the aisle, however Scharnhorst said she is confident she will have a primary, potentially with as many as three other candidates.
Ashley Jost is no longer with The Missouri Times. She worked as the executive editor for several months, and a reporter before that.