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District 41 shaping up to be key House race in 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo – There are a few factors that make the race for the 41st District House seat interesting. The district has historically been a rural Democratic stronghold, but in recent years is leaning right thanks to the rise of the social conservative. The seat is held by Rep. Ed Schieffer, who is about to be termed out of office.

Democrat candidate Dan Dildine
Democrat candidate Dan Dildine

All of this makes it the type of district Republicans would love to poach. But it also features a Republican primary between two candidates who have vastly different strengths. Waiting for them is a seasoned Democrat challenger.

By résumé alone, the Democrat candidate is the most qualified to take the post. Dan Dildine practiced law for 20 years before becoming a district court judge in Lincoln County for the past 12 years. After 32 years in the legal system, Dildine retired.

“Of course, a big portion of the legislature is establishing laws,” Dildine said. “How laws should be written and how they work with other laws.”

Dildine also has support from Schieffer, who he has known for years.

Dildine is focusing on current issues for his platform. He opposes Right to Work legislation, he supports expanding Medicaid and fully funding the foundation formula for education. Dildine has been married to his wife Chris, a retired teacher, for 28 years.

Alexandra Salsman is one of the Republican challengers for the seat. She is running on a platform of protecting Constitutional rights.

“I’m a big stickler on protecting the 10th amendment – state’s rights,” Salsman said. “I’m a stickler on the Second Amendment as well. Every decision I make comes from the Constitution.”

Salsman said federal overreach in education — like imposition of common core — as well as healthcare, make her concerned about the ballooning power of government. Although Salsman hails from Troy, she works as a loan servicer for Citi Mortgage in O’Fallon.

“Well, I can see from a large corporation standpoint what regulations have done to the banking industry,” Salsman said of her experience relating to her candidacy.

Republican candidate Alex Salsman
Republican candidate Alex Salsman

Salsman is the youngest candidate at 29 years old and feels she is the underdog against two higher profile opponents.

“We are steeped in ‘good ole boy’ politics,” Salsman said of the district.

Salsman’s primary opponent is Randy Pietzman. Pietzman owns a successful concrete business in Troy. He prides himself on being able to “weather the storm” in trying economic times, both when he started his business in the early ‘80s and after the most recent economic collapse in 2008.

“There was a time just relying on the concrete business, you weren’t going to make it,” Pietzman said. “I can adapt.”

Pietzman would be adapting to a whole new role as a representative. He describes himself as blue collar, saying it will be unnerving at first having to wear a suit every day.

“I decided to run because I’m one of those guys who was not happy with the way everything is going,” he said.

The decision to run was not a light one for Pietzman. Even after local Republican party membership actively asked him to run, he still took two months to think over his choice. Before that, he had never seriously considered running.

“My kids were the first one’s to push me,” Pietzman said. “My oldest daughter told me, ‘all it takes for evil to prevail is for a good man to do nothing.’”

Pietzman described his platform as a campaign of common sense. He attends Faith Christian Family Church in Warrenton – his religious beliefs leading him to be staunchly pro-life. His fiscal policy is simply, “You just don’t spend more than you owe.” He said that crime, especially sexual abuse is out of control in his district, but he is not sure how that could be fixed in a state policy forum.

“Some of that you can’t answer until you’re in there,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going to hit me in the face.”

Despite the various backgrounds of all these candidates, they agree relatively closely on what will be a key issue for the district: anti-union legislation.

As the Democrat candidate, Dildine is already receiving favor from local unions. It just so happens his first job out of high school was working on the assembly line at a Ford plant.

“I understand the importance of unions,” he said.

Pietzman has worked with union leaders before and clarified that he is not anti-union. At one time, his employees contemplated unionizing and he supported it.

“I pay pretty close to union wages already,” Pietzman said.

Salsman said she has not made up her mind.

“I see both sides of the issue,” she said. “Hopefully, they put (right to work) on the ballot and my constituents get to vote.”