Democrat announces run for St. Louis area congressional seat held by Rep. Ann Wagner

JEFFERSON CITY — A Creve Coeur Democrat is running for the suburban St. Louis congressional seat held by incumbent U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, a Republican elected five times to the seat who survived competitive contests in recent years.

Ben Samuels, 30, who most recently worked as director of special projects under Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, said in an interview he was motivated to run for Congress following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by thousands of Donald Trump supporters who sought to stop the certification of the 2020 election results.

“Anti-voting rights, anti-democracy, election denialism has become table stakes for the vast majority of elected Republicans, like Ann Wagner,” Samuels said.

Wagner in January broke with other Missouri Republicans to uphold the results of the election and called the Capitol attack “despicable,” but Samuels said she supported the Texas v. Pennsylvania court case challenging the election, and voted against the Jan. 6 Commission to study the insurrection.

“I bring to this role, I think, a background of someone who has worked for and with Republicans and for and with Democrats to solve a lot of the things that matter most in peoples’ lives — things like job creation, economic development, small business growth,” Samuels said.

He said he was also prepared to tackle “the most pressing and tricky issues” such as climate change and infrastructure.

Samuels, according to a news release, also “coordinated” a bipartisan group of 13 governors on an initiative “to invest in clean energy technology, fight climate change, create thousands of jobs, and improve transportation infrastructure.”

He worked for Baker, a Republican governor who enjoys wide support in deeply Democratic Massachusetts, from 2019 to June 2021. Samuels said he worked remotely from St. Louis County during the pandemic.

He said he is a sixth-generation Missourian, and that his great-great-grandfather started Samuels Shoe Co. in St. Louis. Samuels said he began his career in business, working for Applied Predictive Technologies, which was purchased by Mastercard.

Samuels said he grew up in St. Louis off and on, but he said he didn’t go to high school there.

He registered to vote in St. Louis County on June 4 and has no county voting history, according to the St. Louis County Election Board. Samuels said he hasn’t voted in Missouri but has voted in other states.

He is the only Democrat so far to announce a campaign for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

Though Democrats invested heavily in defeating Wagner in 2018 and 2020, it is unclear whether Wagner will run again for the seat. She has expressed interest in running for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

Also unknown are the future boundaries of the 2nd Congressional District, which will change after a once-every-decade redistricting process that begins later this year.

The boundary of the heavily Democratic 1st Congressional District will likely be forced to eat into the current 2nd Congressional District because of continued population loss in the city of St. Louis.

That means the future boundaries of Wagner’s current district may be even less hospitable to Democrats for the next decade.

Samuels said he expects his message to resonate regardless of the new boundaries, saying voters will elect a representative “who reflects the values of the community and not just the values of their political party.”

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