Mike Owens is hoping the visibility created during his 27 years as a news reporter on KSDK Channel 5 will help him win a seat in the Missouri State House during next Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
Owens, 61, is one of three candidates running in the newly-drawn 84th House District in the City of St. Louis. As no Republican has filed, whoever wins the primary will take the seat when the Legislature reconvenes next year. Others who have filed for the office are Hope Whitehead and Karla May, whose old House district includes part of the 84th.
“Name recognition is a big part of this,” Owens said. “I’ve worked hard but it does help to have been on television for a long time because people do remember you. That can work against you, too. If I’ve ever done a story that made them mad, they would have other feelings about me.”
Owens grew up in St. Louis and earned a degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. His first job in journalism was working for John Angelides, the news director at KMOX radio. Owens joined Channel 5 in 1983.
Towards the end of his broadcasting career, he began taking night law classes at St. Louis University and got his degree in 1999. Later, when the television station gave everyone two weeks off without pay, Owens used the time to study for the bar exam. He left the station in September, 2010 and has been practicing law at Pleban and Petruska in St. Louis.
Owens said he was running for the House to do something about St. Louis public schools. “I have skin in the game,” he said. “I live in the city, raise kids in the city and I’m concerned there are neighborhoods where kids can’t get a quality education.”
Others have tried to enter politics after a career in St. Louis broadcasting. Bob Chase, a former news anchorman for Channel 5, tried twice to win a seat in the U.S. House as a Republican. In 1976, Chase lost the primary by 130 votes. He ran again two years later. He won the primary but lost in the general election.
Chase died in 1999 at the age of 72.
Owens lost the primary to May, 44 percent to 33 percent. He said Congressman Lacy Clay, who himself was in a primary battle with incumbent Democrat Russ Carnahan, got out the vote for himself.
“That helped down ticket races,” Owens said. “He backed one of my opponents, which also hurt.”
Terry Ganey is a free lance writer and former Jefferson City Bureau Chief of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.