Best Local Politician - 2002
Richard Gephardt, U.S. Representative, 3rd District
Readers' Choice: Francis Slay
If Dick Gephardt is good enough for everybody else, who are St. Louisans to argue? The House minority leader and presidential candidate is often the go-to guy for the Sunday-morning network chat shows as one of the talking heads who does most of the talking for the national Democratic Party. Yeah, he's also the guy who's the subject of those "Dump Gephardt" bumper stickers you see around town, but don't hold your breath on that one. There's a core of locals who can't stand the guy, but apparently not many. When real-estate whiz Bill Federer ran against Gephardt in 2000, the Republicans finally had a candidate with lots of money to finance his campaign. Despite spending more than $1 million and running as a nonpolitician, Federer only mustered 40 percent of the vote. How does Gephardt do it? He was a speech major in college at Northwestern University before getting his law degree at the University of Michigan. He's big on eye contact and communication. In small groups, that works. He's a details kind of guy. Constituent service is big. And don't forget his, well, organization. Joyce Aboussie is his national political director. With her background in polling and her local connections, few trends in the district go unnoticed. Rumors circle that if Gephardt doesn't become speaker this go-around, he may hang it up. Who's next in line for that congressional seat? Francis Slay? Tom Villa? Lyda Krewson? If only Peter E. Parisi hadn't died.