Democrat Sam Gladney, a political newcomer who was a field artillery officer in the Iraq War and now practices labor law in St. Louis, has thrown his hat into the ring in the race for the Missouri House District 87 seat.
Gladney formally began exploring a bid months ago and said he wants to get involved in Jefferson City and fight for causes that are worth while.
“I’m the sort of guy that likes to be involved when there’s something worthy that I think I can make difference in,” Gladney said. “I tell folks that I was a senior in high school when 9/11 happened and that led me to go to West Point and the Army. I was also a young practicing lawyer when Donald Trump got elected and when Eric Greitens got elected, so that led me to get involved in state politics, especially because I think a lot of our rights are taken away at the state level. I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines for that.”
Gladney is seeking the Democratic Party nomination for the seat currently held by Rep. Stacey Newman, who will be termed out at the end of this session.
He is one of two candidates in the Democratic primary field, joining former teacher and current practicing attorney Ian Mackey, who has the support of the outgoing Newman. The two will face off in the Missouri primary on August 7.
Steven Bailey, a 2016 candidate who lost to Lacy Clay in the election to represent the 1st Congressional District, is running unopposed in the Republican primary, while Robert Warbin is running as a Green Party candidate.
Gladney said he agrees on most of the issues with his Democratic counterpart, but one thing in particular sets him apart from all of the candidates.
“I think the biggest difference between me and any of them is just the ability to deliver on the things we’re talking about,” Gladney said. “You have to be able to work with Republicans in this sort of an environment. They right now have a 3-1 advantage in the state House. I don’t think it’ll be 3-1 much longer but they’re still going to have an advantage, which means you have to be able to frame arguments in ways where we can get Democratic, progressive priorities passed in that body. I think I have a better ability to do that based on the way I frame arguments, based on the way I solve problems.”
As a senior at Clayton High School, Gladney witnessed the attacks of 9/11, which prompted him to dedicate his life to the service of his country. His calling took him to the United States Military Academy at West Point where he earned a commission as an artillery officer in the Army.
Following two deployments to Iraq, including the first in which he led 40 people in combat, and his second tour where he managed a staff budget of about $80 million, Gladney returned home and now serves as a labor attorney with Hartnett Gladney Hetterman.
Gladney said the results of the 2016 elections both nationally and at the state level, along with his training in the military, pushed him to run for office.
“I can speak to why I think a lot of (veterans) are Democrats and that is because in the Army at least you’re not allowed to ignore facts that you don’t want to deal with. There are certain facts that are out there. Global Warming is a fact. The fact that the worker’s rights are under attack is a fact. The fact that Planned Parenthood provides services to millions of women is a fact. So we’re used to operating in a fact-based environment. That seems to me and to a lot of other veterans as well that there’s only one party that deals in facts. That’s the Democratic Party and we want to make a difference.”
Among the biggest issues he’s running on is gun control. As a service member and veteran, Gladney said his experience in the military lends credibility to the gun issue.
“I’ve fired them, I’ve had them fired at me. I know what they’re capable of, I know the level of training that one should have to go through before they can get their hands on one,” he said. “Unfortunately we’re not seeing that today in the civilian population systems.”
Gladney said his time in the service offers a unique perspective in politics but that a service record shouldn’t be required to serve in office. He also pointed out that he’s not just a veteran candidate.
Gladney has served in a several different areas, fighting with Jobs for Justice for a $15 and hour minimum wage and collecting signatures to give Missourians early voting rights. Most recently, he organized Veterans for Chris Koster for Governor.
With a little less than five months to go before the primary elections, Gladney has been hitting the campaign trail hard, knocking on thousands of doors and talking to voters at every corner of the district to get their vote.
“We’ve been out there aggressively knocking on doors. I’ve actually re-injured part of a stress fracture I had on my foot from all the walking around we’ve been doing,” Gladney said. “That’s really my favorite part of the campaign, is getting out and talking to people one-on-one at their doors to see what kind of change we can create.”