Befores she began her prepared remarks to a small gathering of Springfield Democrats Thursday, Andria Simckes acknowledged something you don't often hear a statewide candidate for political office say.
"I can honestly say I hate public speaking," the Democratic candidate for Treasurer said at a meet and greet with interested Democrats at attorney Bob Bruer's south Springfield office. "I am getting used to it."
Perhaps the flap over her claim to endorsements is evidence that Simckes is still learning the ropes of political warfare -- but her strategy for winning the 4-way Democratic primary for Treasurer seems simple and laser-focused.
Win African Americans and women. Big.
"Women outvote men 2-to-1," she told a pool of potential Democratic donors, who were mostly white and male. "I only need between 130,000 to 160,000 to win the primary . . . If I also bring the African American and woman vote out, it is predicted I will win this race," Simckes said.
After graduating from Washington University Law School, Simckes went to intern for Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, where she was "bitten by the political bug." In this run for Treasurer, she's mostly drawing on her experience as the Comptroller of Missouri's coordinated campaign in 1996 where she oversaw a $1.6 million dollar budget, work she did for Governor Mel Carnahan first as a legal assistant -- then in the Department of Economic Development and her time serving as Executive Director for the St. Louis Regional Empowerment Zone, where she steered a budget of $19 million dollars.
She noted some of her biggest accomplishments during that time include getting the state to pursue economic development from a "regional perspective," and helping implement the settlement involving workers and contractors during the Interstate 70 shutdown.
Since then, Simckes has stayed at home to raise her three children before joining the St. Louis law firm Kodner Watkins Muchnick Weigley. She said she decided to make a run for State Treasurer over Thanksgiving.
Simckes said she believes in the non-partisan court plan and supports the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative. On policy, she said one of her top priorities would be to reform the MOST program by reducing administrative fees attached to it. "Even though we're putting more money into MOST, a lot of it is going to fees," Simckes said.
MOST is meant to be an investment program where parents can set up an education fund for their children. The idea is to gain a bigger return on investments than a local savings plan could. Simckes suggested that investors aren't getting as a big a bang for their buck as they used to.
Another Simckes priority would be financial literacy. She wants to encourage high schools to include things like balancing a check book and managing a credit card into their curriculums. "I'm amazed at how many Missouri teens don't know how (to do these things," Simckes said.
Re-investing the state's money to create jobs for regular, everyday people -- and not "big business" -- would be another Simckes priority. She said she would focus on bringing "large, growing and stable" jobs to the state, in industries like healthcare management and hi-and low-technology.
Simckes also said that if current Treasurer Sarah Steelman doesn't do what's necessary to "create a stopgap," she would try to put funds in to preserve the 2nd Injury Fund.
Simckes seemed to impress many of her listeners in the room. "When you hear Andria, you know she's an outstanding contender in this race," said Bob Bruer, who hosted the event at Simckes request.
In order to take herself from contender to nominee, she will have to defeat Rep. Clint Zweifel, who will have considerable labor support and Mark Powell, the 2004 Democratic nominee.
Simckes said Powell did well in Greene County last time around because of some name confusion with Judge Mark Powell. "I'll have to worry about that component," Simckes said. She seemed more focused on the candidacy of Zweifel.
"Some of the unions are forgoing the interview process and automatically going with him," Simckes said. "He'll definitely outspend me and outraise me. He'll show a great deal of money, but you do not need a great deal of money to win this race."
Simckes told the room she has raised $60,000 since December 11th and will report $40,000 on hand. "It's a good start," one attendee observed.
As a Jewish, female African-American, Simckes pledged to campaign in Southwest Missouri. "Southwest Missouri still has a great amount of women That's how I'll be distinguishing myself. Mark Powell has more influence in the southwest part of the state than Clint. That's my guess. But neither of them are female. That is one of my target areas," Simckes said.
"I'm an African-American woman. Three Caucasian men are running against me," she reminded the room, clearly reinforcing her point.
Simckes said she would not be attending Jackson Days in Springfield because it falls during the Jewish holiday of Passover, which she will be celebrating at home with her family and religious leaders from her community.