On Monday night at Lindenwood University, the community was given the opportunity participate in a candidate forum for with legislative candidates. The event took place in the J Scheidegger auditorium, a large venue that just a few months ago was the site of one of the many primary debates that propelled Akin to the nomination against McCaskill.
When Akin and his primary rivals were here last, the room was stuffed with active supporters and a hungry press corps. But this night, the atmosphere was different. A couple dozen St. Charles residents scattered themselves in the large room to hear from their local candidates, quietly running their races while the spotlight is aimed elsewhere.
This year, following implementation of new legislative maps that came as a result of the 2010 Census, lawmakers are running in new, perhaps unfamiliar districts, leaving them to focus on operating a real door-to-door ground game, and, yes, participating in under-attended candidate forums.
State Rep. Kathie Conway, running for reelection largely unopposed in the newly formed District 104, said she has noticed huge apathy for state legislative races, which she described as the body politic's best chance to get to know their closest representative.
"I don't think people realize your state legislature is really your first government official that lives in your neighborhood, that send kids to your schools, that goes grocery shopping, the post office, walks their dog down the street, they're there," she said. "Most of us have our phone numbers published and our doors always open. I don't think people realize just how well they can know their state representative."
In the same way state representatives are the regions closest representative in the Missouri legislature, the region's U.S. Representative is its closest representative in the Congress, and while Akin has been away campaigning, state Rep. Anne Zerr said he has carried the controversy over his comments about "legitimate rape" with him elsewhere.
"What I hear people say is they're worried about jobs. In political circles, you probably hear about him and Obama and Romney," she said, "but people are more concerned with their pension, their jobs, the kids education."
Zerr disagreed with Conway that there is a sense of apathy about state legislative races. A former staff member at Lindenwood University, Zerr said candidate forums like the ones hosted that night are what it will take to get more people involved.
The forum took place on Monday night, a night that also marked Game Two of the St. Louis Cardinals' battle in the National League Division Playoffs.