Democrat Ben Samuels said he decided it was time to run for a seat in Congress after the Jan. 6 attacks on the capitol.
“Like a lot of Americans, I watched what happened that day in horror and [saw] we were sort of living through a lot of the consequences of four years of vitriol and viciousness,” the 30-year-old Creve Coeur resident told The St. Louis American. “That really was horrifying.”
While Samuels started his career in business, working at a startup that was later acquired by Mastercard, he eventually worked for Chicago’s city government and worked to find ways to run it more efficiently and save taxpayer money. He was then an adviser to Gov. Charlie Baker in Massachusetts, where he led an economic recovery initiative after the pandemic hit.
Samuels also coordinated a bipartisan coalition of 13 governors on a joint initiative to invest in clean energy technology, fight climate change, create jobs and improve transportation infrastructure.
He announced his 2022 bid for current Rep. Anne Wagner’s Congressional House seat earlier this month, and believes he’s equipped for the job as a sixth generation Missourian.
“For generations, my family's been civically engaged here as teachers, as volunteers, as members of the community — and that's the legacy that I'm proud to bring into this role,” he said.
The Democratic candidate said Rep. Ann Wagner isn’t committed to getting things done in St. Louis.
“If you look over the last 10 years, St. Louis of the top 25 major metro areas in the U.S. is the third slowest growing,” he said. “I don't see Ann Wagner doing anything to try to bring jobs to St. Louis and back to St. Louis and to promote growth here in St. Louis.”
Wagner was first elected in 2012. In 2016 and 2018 she was re-elected by margins of 21 and 4 percentage points, respectively. Last year, Wagner beat out Democratic candidate Jill Schupp by just over six percentage points.
Missouri’s District 2 encompasses the area west of St. Louis and includes Chesterfield, Des Peres, Sunset Hills, Arnold, Eureka, Creve Coeur and a portion of Maryland Heights.
The district’s next election will be held November 8, 2022, after the Aug. 2, 2022, primary. So far, two Democratic candidates have announced their intention to run — Samuels and Raymond Reed. Wagner’s two Republican challengers are Bob Anders and Wesley Smith.
When it comes to climate change and environmental racism, Samuels said it’s important to acknowledge that Black communities and other communities of color are disproportionately bearing the brunt of air pollution and the consequences of climate change.
He said it’s imperative to ensure the government addresses this issue through things like giving people more options in how they choose to commute and getting them into lower-emitting vehicles to reduce the pollution and its effects.
“Those are things that are a critical part of not only addressing a lot of the issues of climate change, but also addressing the fact that these communities are hit hardest by it and doing it in a way that creates jobs and save people money,” he said.
Samuels does not support the Defund the Police movement, saying instead BIPOC communities should be intimately involved with evaluating and changing police conduct and policies.
“My parents never had to talk to me about how to interact with the police if and when I came across the police,” Samuels said. “And I know that's not the lived experience for most black people either. And I think we have to acknowledge the fact that those are things we need to address. At the same time, I think it's important to make sure that police have the resources to do their jobs more effectively by making sure that they can address mental health issues when they come up, making sure that they can address housing issues and substance issues as those kinds of things come up.”
If elected, he said his main priorities would be investing in the region while supporting small businesses and job growth.
“We're going to be dealing with the economic fallout of [the pandemic] for a very long time and making sure that we can continue to grow jobs and to grow small businesses is a key part of that, especially here in St. Louis, where we've seen a lot of jobs and a lot of companies leave the region over time,” he said.
While Samuels has not held elected office yet, he said his government experience working with both parties will be critical.
“I'm a millennial and millennials right now represent the largest share of the American population and by far the largest share of the American workforce,” he said. “At the same time, we make up 1% of Congress and I think we both need and deserve a seat at the federal policymaking table.”